This project has three main goals. 1. Analysis of startle modulation. We previously demonstrated that intense acoustic stimuli elicit two types of startle response in zebrafish larvae: rapid short latency responses and lower performance long latency responses. All fish can generate both types of response, but which response emerges is unpredictable from trial to trial.
We aim to understand how fish select to deploy a short or long latency response. Short latency responses are modulated in a similar fashion to startle responses in mammals where startle magnitude is inhibited when the startle stimulus is preceded by a weak auditory prepulse. This form of startle modulation, termed prepulse inhibition, is diminished in several neurological conditions including schizophrenia. Previously, we conducted a screen to identify fish carrying genetic mutations resulting in a reduction in prepulse inhibition. We are now performing linkage analysis using these fish to map the genetic mutations in the mutants and identify genes required for prepulse inhibition. In parallel, we are analyzing how long latency responses are generated. Brainstem neurons which trigger a motor response must belong to the restricted cohort of neurons which project to the spinal cord. We are therefore sequentially ablating neurons of this class using a pulsed nitrogen laser, then probing the stimulus threshold and magnitude of the long latency startle response system. Together, these approaches will allow us to find neuronal mechanisms for the implementation of behavioral choice in zebrafish larvae. 2. Functional mapping of serotonergic neuronal architecture. We have generated transgenic fish expressing the GAL4 transcription factor in serotonergic neurons. This enables us to genetically manipulate these neurons by crossing the fish to lines carrying reporter genes under the control of the UAS promoter, for example to a UAS:Nitroreductase line to genetically ablate neurons. We found that ablated fish fail to modulate visual sensitivity during arousal. We are now studying the mechanism by which serotonergic activity modulates visual processing, using calcium imaging and neuronal tracing. Ultimately this will allow us to establish a neuronal level functional map of serotonergic anatomy. 3. Development of new tools for analysis of neural circuits involved in motor behavior. The relatively simple nervous system of zebrafish larvae and restricted range of motor behaviors opens up the possibility of identifying neuronal pathways which underlie the entire behavioral repertoire. For this to be feasible, it would be extremely useful to have reporter lines which would enable the manipulation of small groups of neurons known to be involved in a particular motor behavior. We therefore performed an enhancer trap screen using a GAL4 reporter vector to identify lines with restricted patterns of neuronal expression. To date we have generated around 50 such lines. Using these lines, we have carried out a circuit breaking screen, ablating the cohort of trapped neurons and analyzing effects on behavior. This is the first time such a screen has been performed in a vertebrate organism. This approach revealed a GAL4 line which labels neurons required for modulation of the startle response. We are now analyzing the pattern of connectivity and responsiveness of these neurons to elucidate circuit level mechanisms for startle modulation.

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Horstick, Eric J; Tabor, Kathryn M; Jordan, Diana C et al. (2016) Genetic Ablation, Sensitization, and Isolation of Neurons Using Nitroreductase and Tetrodotoxin-Insensitive Channels. Methods Mol Biol 1451:355-66
Horstick, Eric J; Mueller, Thomas; Burgess, Harold A (2016) Motivated state control in larval zebrafish: behavioral paradigms and anatomical substrates. J Neurogenet 30:122-32
Burgess, Harold A; Lee, Chi-Hon; Wu, Chun-Fang (2016) Neurogenetics of connectomes: from fly to fish. J Neurogenet 30:51-3
Horstick, Eric J; Jordan, Diana C; Bergeron, Sadie A et al. (2015) Increased functional protein expression using nucleotide sequence features enriched in highly expressed genes in zebrafish. Nucleic Acids Res 43:e48
Bergeron, S A; Carrier, N; Li, G H et al. (2015) Gsx1 expression defines neurons required for prepulse inhibition. Mol Psychiatry 20:974-85
Marquart, Gregory D; Tabor, Kathryn M; Brown, Mary et al. (2015) A 3D Searchable Database of Transgenic Zebrafish Gal4 and Cre Lines for Functional Neuroanatomy Studies. Front Neural Circuits 9:78
Fero, Kandice; Bergeron, Sadie A; Horstick, Eric J et al. (2014) Impaired embryonic motility in dusp27 mutants reveals a developmental defect in myofibril structure. Dis Model Mech 7:289-98
Tabor, Kathryn M; Bergeron, Sadie A; Horstick, Eric J et al. (2014) Direct activation of the Mauthner cell by electric field pulses drives ultrarapid escape responses. J Neurophysiol 112:834-44
Ikeda, Hiromi; Delargy, Alison H; Yokogawa, Tohei et al. (2013) Intrinsic properties of larval zebrafish neurons in ethanol. PLoS One 8:e63318
Toyama, Reiko; Kim, Mi Ha; Rebbert, Martha L et al. (2013) Habenular commissure formation in zebrafish is regulated by the pineal gland-specific gene unc119c. Dev Dyn 242:1033-42

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