How do animals cope with stressful and anxiety-producing situations like social isolation? In 2022 this Share Your Research Talk, Lukas Anneser, PhD describes his PhD research on how social isolation alters gene transcription in the brain of a tiny vertebrate, the zebrafish. He discovered that activation of a particular gene, the neuropeptide Pth2, happens in real time in response to the presence of other animals. In isolated zebrafish, Pth2 is shut off. But levels of Pth2 increases in zebrafish in the presence of animals of the same species (conspecifics). The changes in gene expression translate directly to behavior – high levels of Pth2 correlate with lower levels of anxiety in these animals and they interact more with their conspecifics. These findings imply that the social environment regulates gene expression in real time.
Dr. Lukas Anneser completed his PhD research at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in the lab of Erin Schuman, PhD. His thesis work focused on the role of neuromodulation in response to social isolation. Lukas is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel, Switzerland. Continue Reading