This Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-2 Focused EPSCoR Collaborations (RII Track-2 FEC) award explores how genetic differences determine the response of individual animals to various stress-inducing stimuli. At the level of a cell or an individual organism, stress-inducing stimuli can involve a number of factors such as oxygen deficiency, poor diet, or exposure to toxic chemicals. The stress responses vary among cells and tissue types and how these responses impact the animal?s functions and survival is not well understood. This project applies a combination of genomic analyses coupled with stress tests at cellular and organismal levels to understand the fitness of mammals using North American deer mouse as a model. The project is a collaborative effort that will be led by the University of South Carolina with faculty and students from Claflin University, an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in South Carolina, and Auburn University in Alabama participating in the research, education, and outreach activities. A new Rodent Performance Testing Laboratory will be established at Auburn University and two early career faculty will be hired to augment and strengthen the resources for collaborations. Senior faculty members will provide strong mentorship for junior researchers for career advancement and will work together in training a diverse group of graduate and undergraduate students and postdocs.
This collaborative project involving University of South Carolina, Claflin University, and Auburn University aims to dissect the genomic basis of stress response in mammals. The overarching goals of this study is to identify the genes and epigenes responsible for variation in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and the resulting unfolded protein response (UPR) and to characterize the physiological and fitness ramification of these differences in out-bred North American deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus). Specifically, the planned research will: (1) identify and validate Quantitative Trait Loci correlated with UPR response in P. maniculatus; (2) establish cultures of primary fibroblasts from P. maniculatus and to perform analysis of the UPR in culture; (3) monitor the response of P. maniculatus in different environmentally-relevant diets; (4) associate genomic signatures and variation in the UPR profile of fibroblasts to variation in animal survival and reproductive performance under semi-natural conditions. The tools, methodologies, and reagents developed and optimized during this work will be made readily available to other researchers. The project will augment available resources by establishing a new Rodent Performance Testing Laboratory at Auburn University and by hiring two early career faculty with expertise in stress biology, evolution and genomics. Strong emphasis on mentoring of early career faculty and postdocs, development of new graduate courses, and recruitment of graduate and undergraduate students with particular emphasis on recruiting students from ethnic and other underrepresented minority groups in STEM are included in this project.