A Fer Kinase Homologue is Expressed during Zebrafish Development

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Aaron Putzke, Hope College

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This research was supported by the National Science Foundation REU 0754293.


Fer kinase, a non-receptor tyrosine kinase normally involved in the regulation of cell-cell adhesion and proliferation, has also been implicated in both prostate and liver cancer metastasis. However, the function of Fer in both development and cancer formation has yet to be fully characterized. Due to the complexities of functional redundancy with other kinases, it has been difficult to study Fer in other vertebrate model organisms, but the zebrafish (Danio rerio) lacks the redundancy of more complex vertebrates, thus allowing for a higher likelihood of elucidating the in vivo function of Fer. Through mining the zebrafish genome database we have identified a single predicted zebrafish Fer homologue. Our phylogenetic analysis shows that the zebrafish Fer homologue is a descendant of the C. elegans FRK-1 protein and an ancestor to the human Fer kinase. We aim to bridge the gap between the invertebrate and vertebrate realms by characterizing the function of the Fer homologue in zebrafish. Initially, we will show the gene expression profile of the Fer homologue during different stages of development via in situ hybridization analysis. Furthermore, using a cross-reactive antibody to human Fer, we have determined by Western blot analysis that Fer protein is indeed expressed during zebrafish development and are now characterizing the requirement of the protein by using morpholino knockdown technology. Processes that can go awry during development are often similar to the cellular mechanisms that result in cancer. By uncovering the developmental requirements for the Fer homologue in zebrafish we ultimately hope to establish a model in which to study more about cancer mechanisms and ways in which to inhibit tumor growth.

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