This award supports a one-year collaborative research project between Professor Stephen Stricker of the University of New Mexico and Professor Takeo Kishimoto of the Tokyo Institute of Biosciences and Biotechnology. The researchers will undertake a study on the role of Akt PKB in the maturation of marine worm eggs. For fertilization and development to proceed normally, eggs characteristically must undergo a maturation process that is mediated by an important cell cycle modulator, termed maturation-promoting factor (MPF). Immature eggs (="oocytes") of nemerteans spontaneously mature after contacting natural seawater (NSW) by undergoing a process called "germinal vesicle breakdown" (GVBD). Such GVBD is blocked by isolating oocytes in calcium-free SW (CaFSW), but this inhibition can be overridden by adding low doses of the neurohormone serotonin (=5-HT). The researchers will attempt to determine if during 5-HT-induced GVBD in nemertean oocytes, Akt/PKB is activated in a MAPK-and cdc25-independent manner that in turn downregulates Myt-1 and thereby activates MPF as in starfish oocytes. The research will be centered on optical imaging and spectroscopic techniques with high spatial and temporal resolution.
The project brings together the efforts of two laboratories that have complementary expertise and research capabilities. Professor Kishimoto's laboratory in Japan is one of the leading centers in the world for investigations of MPF regulation in a variety of cells, including maturing eggs. The lab specializes in studies of starfish egg maturation. The lab practices a low-pressure form of microinjection that is particularly well suited for quantitative injections required for antibody inactivations of Akt. Professor Stricker's laboratory utilizes an alternative high-pressure microinjection system that does not readily lend itself to quantitation. The research will offer a good opportunity to join efforts between the two countries. Through the exchange of ideas and technology, this project will broaden our base of basic knowledge and promote international understanding and cooperation. The project advances international human resources through the participation of a graduate student