Tilapia Teach Environmental Adaptation
Andre Seale (HNFAS) and his co-PI have been awarded a grant of $348,400 by the National Science Foundation in support of their project, “Collaborative Research: Identifying Osmosensitive Molecular Targets Using a Unique Vertebrate Model.” This research addresses how specialized cells sense and respond to changes in the external environment and, in turn, control the physiological systems that maintain a stable internal environment. Osmoregulation, or the regulation of salt and water balance, is fundamental to most vertebrates, including humans. Understanding of how osmoreceptor cells work remains incomplete because of their complex structure and arrangement among other cells in the brain of many animals, making it difficult to develop effective experimental approaches. However, Andre and his partner negate this problem by studying the hormone prolactin, which is involved in osmoregulation in tilapia, which can live in fresh and salt water. In these fish, the prolactin cells are arranged into a nearly homogeneous mass in the pituitary gland. This project uses the tilapia prolactin cell model as a means to uniquely connect the operation of osmoreceptor cells with environmental adaptation at the organismal level.