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Award Abstract #1247510

Protein Folding and Embryogenesis in Antarctic Fishes: A Comparative Approach to Environmental Stress

Division Of Polar Programs
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Initial Amendment Date: May 23, 2013
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Latest Amendment Date: May 23, 2013
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Award Number: 1247510
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Award Instrument: Standard Grant
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Program Manager: Christian Fritsen
PLR Division Of Polar Programs
GEO Directorate For Geosciences
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Start Date: June 1, 2013
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End Date: May 31, 2016 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $570,301.00
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Investigator(s): H. William Detrich ICEMAN@NEU.EDU (Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: Northeastern University
BOSTON, MA 02115-5005 (617)373-2508
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Program Reference Code(s):
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Program Element Code(s): 5111


Since the advent of Antarctic continental glaciation, the opening of the Drake Passage between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula, and the onset of cooling of the Southern Ocean ~40-25 million years ago, evolution of the Antarctic marine biota has been driven by the development of extreme cold temperatures. As circum-Antarctic coastal temperatures declined during this period from ~20C to the modern ?1.9 to +2.0C (reached ~8-10 million years ago), the psychrophilic (cold-loving) ectotherms of the Southern Ocean evolved compensatory molecular, cellular, and physiological traits that enabled them to maintain normal metabolic function at cold temperatures. Today, these organisms are threatened by rapid warming of the Southern Ocean over periods measured in centuries (as much as 5C/100 yr), a timeframe so short that re-adaptation and/or acclimatization to the ?new warm? may not be possible. Thus, the long-term goals of this research project are: 1) to understand the biochemical and physiological capacities of the embryos of Antarctic notothenioid fish to resist or compensate for rapid oceanic warming; and 2) to assess the genetic toolkit available to support the acclimatization and adaptation of Antarctic notothenioid embryos to their warming habitat. The specific aims of this work are: 1) to determine the capacity of the chaperonin complex of notothenioid fishes to assist protein folding at temperatures between ?4 and +20C; and 2) to evaluate the genetic responses of notothenioid embryos, measured as global differential gene transcription, to temperature challenge, with ?1.9C as the ?normal? control and +4 and +10C as high temperature insults.

The physiology of embryonic development of marine stenotherms under future climate change scenarios is an important but understudied problem. This project will provide valuable insights into the capacity of Antarctic fish embryos to acclimatize and adapt to plausible climate change scenarios by examining multiple levels of biological organization, from the biochemical to the organismal. The results should also be broadly applicable to understanding the impact of global warming on marine biota worldwide. The research will also introduce graduate and REU undergraduate students to state-of-the-art biochemical, cellular, and molecular-biological research relevant to ecological and environmental issues of the Antarctic marine ecosystem.


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Cuellar, J., Ybenes, H., Parker, S. K., Carranza, G., Serna, M., Valpuesta, J. M., Zabala, J. C., & Detrich, H. W., III. "Assisted Protein Folding at Low Temperature: Evolutionary Adaptation of the Antarctic Fish Chaperonin CCT and Its Client Proteins," Biology Open, v.3, 2014, p. 261. 

Shin, S. C., Ahn, D. H., Kim, S. J., Pyo, C. W., Lee, H., Kim, M.-K., Lee, J., Lee, J. E., Detrich, H. W., III, Postlethwait, J., Lee, J. H., Lee, S. G., & Park, H.. "The Genome Sequence of the Antarctic Bullhead Notothen Reveals Evolutionary Adaptations to a Cold Environment," Genome Biology, 2014. 


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