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Michael Byrne,
NSF Graduate Fellow

NSF GK-12 Project: Northeastern University
GK-12-PLUS (Partners Linking Urban Schools)
URL: http://www.gk12.neu.edu

Thesis Title: Further Characterization of the Ped Gene Using the Congenic B6.K1 and B6.K2 Strains of Mice
College/University: Northeastern University

Research Advisor: Carol Warner

Degree Sought

University Department and/or Lab
Department of Biology

Research Focus
I want to gain a further understanding of early embryo development through the study of the pre-implantation embryo development gene (Ped).

Description of Research
The Ped gene regulates the rate of pre-implantation embryonic cleavage division and subsequent embryo survival. In the mouse, the Ped gene product is Qa-2 protein, a cell surface non-classical MHC class I molecule encoded by four tandem genes, Q6/Q7/Q8/Q9; however only Q7/Q9 are expressed in mouse embryos. Mouse strains with the presence of the Qa-2 encoding genes express Qa-2 protein and produce embryos with a faster rate of pre-implantation embryonic development and a greater rate of embryo survival compared to mouse strains with the null allele. Therefore, there seems to be an evolutionary and reproductive advantage to the presence of Qa-2 protein which results in healthier embryos.

My work thus far has confirmed that the Ped gene is not an artifact of the inbreeding of laboratory mice and that it is present in a wild population of mice with numbers varying from 0 to 80 copies per mouse. I have further shown that the Ped positive phenotype is not associated with the sex of the preimplantation embryo.

My current work focuses on using our Ped mouse model to define the expression pattern of known developmental timing molecules (originally discovered in C. elegans) that have been found to be conserved across taxa to see if presence of the Ped gene is correlated with the up (or down) regulation of other molecules known to affect developmental timing in other species.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience
My main focus is on teaching the laboratory portion of the AP Biology course to my students. I specifically integrated my work into the lab that covered mitosis and meiosis (cell-division and gamete formation). I used images of embryos gathered in my lab to show real examples of cell-division. The images of real embryos offered the students more than a drawing in a text book. Further I have used knowledge of embryo development to help my students understand where embryonic stem cells come from and how they are harvested.

Profile date: August 2007
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