A CAREER development grant has been awarded to Dr. Jonathan S. Marchant of the University of Minnesota to define the regulatory properties of the inositol trisphosphate receptor. The inositol trisphosphate receptor is an intracellular protein that controls many events in cellular physiology by regulating the calcium concentration within the cytoplasm. However, excessive increases in cytoplasmic calcium are toxic to cells, and dysregulation of inositol trisphosphate receptor function is implicated in many serious abnormalities. Dr. Marchant's approach will involve the application of fluorescent-based methods in the model organism Xenopus tropicalis to define the behavior of inositol trisphosphate receptors in their native environment. Such an approach will best provide insight into how these proteins function within cells in vivo, compared to a less physiological in vitro test-tube environment. The results from these studies will improve our understanding of how cells respond - appropriately or inappropriately - to the plethora of drugs, hormones and neurotransmitters that act through this intracellular signal transduction pathway.
The broader impact of these research activities will be realized by translating the fluorescence-based methods routinely applied in Dr. Marchant's laboratory into the educational domain as an outreach training program to High School teachers. This outreach program will comprise teacher training 'refresher' courses supported by practical modules designed for High School use that illustrate the application of fluorescence-based methods in molecular, cellular and genomic research. Given the pace of the molecular genetic revolution, the issue of retraining teachers with a capacity to instruct students about the societal impact of emerging technologies is a key challenge for educational organizations and government alike. This project will address this need through a combination of face-to-face training activities, distribution of practical resources and a long-term internet based 'bulletin-board' interface for remote support.