Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is second only to Alzheimer’s disease as the most common neurodegenerative disease in humans, and individuals with PD are at a higher risk of developing melanoma. African Americans have a lower incidence of PD and present with symptoms at an older age than Caucasians, suggesting a relationship between skin pigmentation and PD. In addition, highly pigmented individuals may be making more of the precursor to dopamine, L-dopa, that is used to treat PD, explaining the delayed onset of PD. A zebrafish model was used to investigate the hypothesis that rescuing melanocytes in a zebrafish mutant without pigmentation and with a movement disorder would result in an increase in endogenous production of L-dopa and restore movement. One-cell embryo mutants were injected with a plasmid containing a melanocyte-specific promoter (microphthalmia-associated transcription factor, mitf) which controls production of melanin within melanocytes and a gene lacking in the mutants that is involved in movement (transient receptor potential cation channel 7, trpm7), thereby potentially restoring both the pigmentation and movement in the mutant fish. Embryos (48 hours postfertilization) were observed for rescue of melanocytes and a movement assay was conducted. Embryos were genotyped to confirm presence of mitf plasmid. Partial rescue of melanocytes was seen in trpm7/ mitf generation-zero zebrafish. No significant movement difference was seen in trpm7/mitf transgenic animals in comparison to trpm 7 -/- mutants.
Shashanna Moll, ’17
Sponsor: Barbara Christie-Pope