CAREER: Modulation of a Neuroendocrine System by Endocrine Disruptors - BPA effects on GnRH neuron development, physiology and reproductive behavior in teleost fish

Neurons releasing Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) in the brain are the main controllers of reproduction and reproductive behavior in most vertebrates, including humans. Reproductive health, fertility and behavioral problems have been linked to abnormal development and function of the GnRH neuronal system. There is increasing evidence that endocrine disrupting chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA) - a synthetic estrogen in our environment - have deleterious effects on the reproductive systems and behaviors in many species. This study addresses how GnRH neuron development, physiology and reproductive behavior, are altered by chronic exposure to low levels of BPA. This project will use transgenic fish models, having GnRH neurons tagged with green fluorescent proteins, to address effects of chronic BPA exposure on: a) embryonic GnRH neuron development, b) physiology of adult GnRH neurons, and c) mating and social behavior. Experiments will use neural electrical recordings, confocal imaging, immunohistochemistry and behavioral observations. The project will result in understanding how endocrine disruptors modulate the GnRH system and suggest potential solutions for reproductive problems like ovarian dysfunction, miscarriages, pre-term births, precocious puberty and Kallman's syndrome.

This study will be the first to address the impact of BPA on GnRH neuron development, physiology, and function, in conjunction with whole animal behavior. Data and protocols from the study will be available to the academic community and the general public via the University of Puget Sound archives and the lab website ( Undergraduate researchers will receive broad neuroscience training at the cell, circuit, and whole-animal levels, with ecological perspectives. K-12 students will be involved in intensive workshops, ongoing collaborative observational studies and regular seminars through outreach at public schools. The plan is to Excite, Educate, Engage by making participants excited about science, educated about neuroscience and the impact of environmental toxins, and engaged with the community and the environment.