Research group leaders

Peter Aleström

Peter Aleström

Professor
Department of Basic Sciences and Aquatic Medicine (BasAm),Norwegian School of Veterinary Science

The research program in AZLab is divided in two main directions. One focus is on characterization of zebrafish embryonic cells pluripotency control. A second area deals with monitoring effects caused by various environmental exposures. Classical endpoints, cell morphologies and generated phenotypes are correlated to transcriptomes and epigenomes. Ongoinig projects are on (1) exploring correlations between genome wide gene expression patterns and the corresponding epigenomic landscapes during the early developmental stages and embryo derived cell cultures; (2) Environmental factor induced changes in zebrafish gene expression patterns induced by microgravity (μG-omics) and eco-toxins (toxicogenomics); (3) A zebrafish neuroscience related project is on prion (PrP) biology. Methods used are RNA sequencing, microarrays, ChIP, qPCR, transgenics and morpholino gene knock-down.
Research facilities:

The Alestrom Zebrafish Lab (AZLab; zebrafish.no) at The Department of Basic Sciences and Aquatic Medicine (BasAm),Norwegian School of Veterinary Science serves as a National Technology Platform under the Functional Genomics Program(FUGE), Research Council of Norway. The zebrafish platform further coordinates the Norwegian zebrafish network (ZNN),which at present contains 11 groups, and organizes an annual ZNN conference and the PhD course zebrafish.no phd course. Further, the ZNN network is connected to the COST BM0804 (EUFishBioMed) with Aleström being member of the COST action MC. AZlab is a moderate sized state-of-the-art zebrafish facility with a holding capacity up to 15,000 fish, since 2008 with AAALAC accreditation. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) has established itself as a leading model species, spanning from human to aquatic biomedicine, for deciphering the genetic and molecular events underlying vertebrate embryo development, in neuroscience, in increasing numbers disease models and in high throughput screens (reviewed by Alestrom et al. 2006, Zebrafish in functional genomics and aquatic biomedicine (Trends Biotechnol. 24:15-21) gives a detailed presentation of the zebrafish model.

peter.alestrom@nvh.no
Lars Ebbeson

Lars Ebbeson

Senior research scientist
Uni research, Norway

Research interests: The teams current research focuses on environmental impacts on welfare and the development of rearing strategies to maximize survival and restoration of endangered fish population. Structural and neurochemical neuroanatomy and gene quantification is a general theme in our lab. The research includes molecular and functional relationships between environmental stress, neural plasticity, and learning and memory behaviours in salmon; environmental impacts on brain development, structure and function in fish: neural and endocrine mechanisms underlying the initiation, regulation and disruption of salmon parr-smolt transformation. While our main focus has been on salmonids, we are also investigating the environmental impacts on cod brain development.

Research facilities: Our research modern research facilities include advanced scientific equipment including: InSituPro for high throughput immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization of sections or whole mounts, FastPrep system for RNA isolation, Agilent for RNA quality, qPCR machines, imaging systems for light and fluorescent microscopy. In addition we have advanced fish rearing facilities for both marine and freshwater species where photoperiod, temperature and salinity are easily regulated.

lars.ebbesson@uni.no
Erik Höglund

Erik Höglund

Senior research scientist
Technical Universty of Denmark

Coordinatior of the Integrative Fish Behavioural Neuroscience Network (BIFINE).

Research interests: Stress related changes in behaviour and neuroendocrinology and their coupling to animal welfare. Current projects: Tryptophan enriched feed. In this project we investigate the effects of this essential amino acid and how it affects serotonergic brain signalling and behaviour. Social and environmental preferences of farmed rainbow trout. In this project we apply the theoretic framework of ideal free distribution to investigate preferences for rearing densities. Individual variation in developmental rate in rainbow trout larvae; implications for welfare and production aspects in modern aquaculture. In this project the coupling between larval development and stress responsiveness is investigated. Projects are funded from Norwegian, Swedish and Danish research councils. Research facilities: Rainbow trout lines selected for high or low stress responsiveness. Behaviour lab for studies of single and small groups of fish. Tank system for growth and energetic studies with registration of oxygen consumption and feed spill. Two-tank systems for preference testing of large number of fish simultaneously. Swimming respirometer and Presens Fibox 3 oxygen monitors for quantification of oxygen consumption in small animals. HPLC systems for amino acid and brain monoamines analysis. Methods for plasma, water and whole body cortisol analysis.

erh@aqua.dtu.dk
Jörgen Johnsson

Jörgen Johnsson

Professor
Animal ecology, Department of Zoology, University of Gothenburg

Research interests: Fish ecology with an interdisciplinary approach including interactions between behaviour, ecology, physiology and molecular biology. We often combine laboratory and field experiments and develop and use modern techniques for measurement of behavioural, physiological and molecular parameters. The group traditionally works with salmonid fish, but has gradually expanded its research to other fish species, including european minnow, guppy, northern pike, sculpin and stickleback. The group often combines basic research with applied aspects. Recent research interests in behavioural neuroscience include the effect of environmental variation on neural development and behaviour, with applications for rearing practices in supplementary and conservation hatcheries. SEG collaborates with a network of leading international researchgroups in Canada, Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. The group has an excellent record of receiving research funding, mainly from Formas and EU. Recently SEG (Jörgen Johnsson) received a strategic grant from Formas (SEK 20 000
000) for the project SMOLTPRO which aims to develop sustainable smolt production in Sweden and Scandinavia. SMOLTPRO involves 19 senior scientists from six research institutions in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Canada.

jorgen.johnsson@zool.gu.se
Petronella Kettunen

Petronella Kettunen

Researcher
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy at University of
Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

Research interests: Petronella Kettunen is interested in cellular and molecular mechanisms of learning and memory using the zebrafish as a model system. The research is combining genetic, molecular, behavioral and in vivo imaging experiments to dissect the different levels of understanding memory function. To this end, Kettunen has developed a model to study simple forms of learning, such as habituation and sensitization, of the startle response in the larval zebrafish. This model allows simultaneous behavioral testing in combination with in vivo calcium imaging of the neuronal network underlying this behavior. Mutants and transgenic zebrafish lines as well as pharmacologically treated animals are used in this system. Using this preparation, Kettunen is monitoring the change in neuronal activity during learning of the startle response. The project is now focusing on describing the network regulation leading to learning, the transmittor systems involved, as well as the intracellular pathways. Another project involves studying the molecular mechanisms of synaptic dysfunction and memory loss in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimers disease. Kettunens project is supported by the Swedish Brain Foundation, EUs FP7 and private foundations.
Research facilities: The group shares an automatic aquarium unit for zebrafish with another group at the Sahlgrenska
Academy. The system is housing wild type fish as well as a number of mutants and transgenic lines. There is one behavioral setup for memory testing and microinjection (stereo microscope, camera, injection apparatus and an electrical stimulator) and the group is sharing a 2-photon microscope/electrophysiology setup for in vivo calcium imaging during memory experiments.

petronella.kettunen@neuro.gu.se
Niclas Kolm

Niclas Kolm

Associate Professor
Department of Ecology and Evolution, Evolutionary biology centre, Uppsala University

Research interests: The evolution of brain size and structure in a range of teleost fishes and also more derived vertebrates. Analyses are undertaken to investigate both correlates and direct causality of variation in brain size and structure at the level of individuals, populations, species and taxa. For instance, new results from the group have demonstrated unexpectedly high levels of variation in brain size and structure even within populations of wild Swedish brown trout (Salmo trutta) and artificial selection experiments on brain size and structure in the guppy are currently being undertaken. Recently, the groups interests have broadened in scope to include investigations of variation in brain structure in Icelandic populations of stickleback, which show dramatic differences for instance in water temperature, as well as investigations of the evolution of brain size and structure in birds and cetaceans (whales). Kolms work is funded by the Swedish Research Council.

Research facilities: Access to a dataset of brain size and structure of ca 50 species of Tanganyikan cichlid species, a
remarkably diverse fish group with immense variation in ecology, life-histories, sexual selection and brain morphology. Expertise in state-of-the-art phylogenetically controlled statistical analyses. A fish-lab (ca 950 tanks) equipped for behavioural studies of small fish.

niclas.kolm@ebc.uu.se
Merilä Juha

Merilä Juha

Professor
Ecological Genetics Research Unit
Department of Biosciences
University of Helsinki

Research interests: Research in the Ecological Genetic Research Unit is focussed on an array of general conceptual problems in evolutionary biology and genetics. We are very much theory driven empiricists, and the primary models in our research are threespine (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and ninespine (Pungitius pungitius) sticklebacks, but also many other taxa are used (e.g. amphibians, birds, other fishes). One of the core areas our research encompasses the study of population differentiation, and in particular, the relative roles of natural selection and genetic drift - as well as direct environmental induction - in explaining differentiation among local populations. In the context of this network, our studies on differentiation in brain size and architecture - as well as in behavior - among local populations of sticklebacks are of particular interest. In these studies, we have uncovered lot of genetically based and apparently natural selection driven differentiation in brain architecture and behavior among recently diverged stickleback populations in Fennoscandia.

Research facilities: The group has currently four fairly large fish rearing rooms with ten stand-alone zebrafish rearing units (Aquaneering) each housing up to 100 individual aquaria units. In addition, there are large number of flow-through and stationary aquarium units capable of housing large scale factorial experiments. We area also equipped with good molecular biology facilities with access to high-throughput infrastructures in Viikki campus of Helsinki University.


juha.merila@helsinki.fi
Leif Norrgren

Leif Norrgren

Professor
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Research inetrest: Our research has a focus on endocrine disrupting chemicals and how these interfere with reproductive fitness and early development in fish. As model species we are working with zebrafish and stickleback. Our niche in this network would be to link sexual behaviour-fecundity-early development of progeny to testis and ovary pathology of the adults. Research facilities: We have a special lab designed to keep small fish species in flow-trough water compartments. Recently we have made investment in a new monitoring system to follow for instance sexual behaviour (Zebra lab system for behaviour of zebrafish, View Point, France). We have all necessary methodologies for assessment of gonad pathology, including
immunohistochemistry, electron microscopy and image analysis.

leif.norrgren@bvf.slu.se
Pertti Panula

Pertti Panula

Professor
Research interests: The goals of the group are to understand the roles and interactions of modulatory neurotransmitters in brain functions and diseases. To ask specific questions, the group has established quantitative behavioral analyses to assess locomotor activity in adult and larval fish, and 3-dimensional imaging methods to correlate behavioral abnormalities to those found in neuron populations and fiber connections in the CNS. Some current studies aim at understanding the roles of the two tyrosine hydroxylase enzymes in catecholamine-dependent behaviors and developmental processes, and the role of proteins encoded by genes relevant for Parkinsons disease (PD). Recent findings indicate that translation inhibition of PINK1 kinase (PARK6) sensitizes the fish to subeffective doses of the neurotoxin MPTP, which also in human causes PD. Administration of MPTP to larval fish induced declines the neuron numbers of 4 dopaminergic and 1 serotonergic cell groups. Current studies also aim at understanding the brain mechanisms of stress, using well characterized and novel models. This is interesting, because the methods developed in the group allow quantitative analysis of essentially all neuronal populations for which specific markers exist. The methods are very useful for studies related to mechanisms of neurotoxins, environmental stressors, and genetic manipulations. Research facilities: The group has two centralized Aquatic Habitats automatic aquarium units, 5 stand-alone units and smaller aquaria for a total of about 40 000 adult fish. Many mutants relevant for neurological diseases are housed in the facility. We also have 9 stereo microscopes, 3 microinjection units for translation inhibition and intracellular injections, a Leica SP2 confocal and 2-photon microsope dedicated zebrafish imaging, 4 other research microscopes and a fully equipped molecular biology laboratory with e.g. quantitative PCR equipment. The behavioural unit comprises two camera systems and EthoVision tracking system adapted to analysis of 100 fish simultaneously. It can handle about 500 fish within one hour, rendering it a very efficient high-throughput behavioral unit. Fast motor actions can be analysed with a Red Lake camera equipped for imaging at 1000 frames/s speed.

pertti.panula@helsinki.fi
Anne Salvanes

Anne Salvanes

Professor
University of Bergen

Reserach interests: Anne Gro Vea Salvanes has, together with the collaborator Professor VA Braithwaite, pioneered studies of the effects of early enrichment on behavioural plasticity in fish. AGVSs interests are in ecology and functioning of ecosystems, with particular focus on learning and cognitive ability in fish and how fish respond to environmental variability. Present work aims to explore the influence of environmental complexity on the ontogeny and development of behaviours such as feeding, anti-predator and social behaviour, and link this to neural development. Model organisms are marine and freshwater fish. She has long experience in supervising PhD-students and master students over the 20 years experience from ecology and behaviour and from field and experimental studies on cod. The strong collaboration with experts in fish neuroscience and molecular techniques, now allows us to take this research to the next level of determining the mechanisms underlying how environmental complexity generates neural and behavioral plasticity.

Anne.Salvanes@bio.uib.no
Fredrik Sundström

Fredrik Sundström

Assistant Professor
Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University

Research interest: Gene and environment interactions and their effects on growth and behavior. Why are fish growing at the rate they are when it is easy to boost growth by hormone manipulations and growth selection? There also appears as if fish can exhibit compensatory growth in nature in response to a period of growth retardation which suggests that submaximal growth is not due to food limitations nature. Current project: the coupling between ontogeny and growth trajectories. Providing data for ecological risk-assessment of growth-enhanced, genetically modified fish in collaboration with researchers in Canada (coho salmon and rainbow trout) and China (carp). Recently funded by an EU Marie Curie Outgoing Fellowship and now supported through an assistant professor grant from the Swedish Research Council Vetenskapsrådet.

fredrik.sundstrom@ebc.uu.se
Svante Winberg

Svante Winberg

Professor
Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University

Research interests: Our research is focused on neuroethology and comparative neuroendocrinology, and we are especially interested in the development and adaptive value of variable individualized stress responses. It is becoming increasingly clear that intraspecific variation in stress coping strategies (personalities), akin to those described in mammals, is an evolutionary conserved feature present throughout the vertebrate subphylum. Differential coping strategiesare reflected in behaviour, learning and cognitive abilities as well as in neuroendocrine responses to stressors. Moreover, in humans personality traits are linked to the susceptibility to different psychiatric conditions, such as depression, anxiety, antisocial behaviour and dependence. These conditions are associated with disturbances of brain monoaminergic neurotransmission. Interestingly, divergent stress coping strategies are associated with differences in brain monoaminergic function. In our research we are using zebrafish and rainbow trout as models to study the development and neuroendocrine control of divergent stress coping strategies. In these studies we are applying detailed analyses of fish behaviour in combination with pharmacological treatment, neurochemistry and molecular techniques. We are also involved in studies aimed at (1) Improving fish welfare in commercial aquaculture COPEWELL and (2) Optimizing rearing conditions at supplementary and conservation hatcheries SMOLTPRO

Research facilities: The group has an automatic aquarium unit (Aquaneering) for zebrafish. The system is housing wild type fish as well as a number of mutants. We also have facilities for keeping and performing small scale studies on juvenile salmonids (rainbow trout). In addition, we have a lab equipped for brain micro dissection, analyses of neurochemistry, plasma hormone levels etc. This lab is also a fully equipped molecular biology laboratory with e.g. quantitative PCR equipment.

svante.winberg@neuro.uu.se
Øyvind Øverli

Øyvind Øverli

Senior research scientist
Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Department of Animal and Aquacultural Sciences.

the reserach group studies the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying individual and population variation in stress responsiveness and behavioural syndromes. The group has established an integrative research program that aims to understand both the evolutionary processes and causal mechanisms behind correlated traits. We utilize behavioural characterisation and MassARRAY genotyping and expression analysis, coupled with established hormone and neurochemical analysis. In addition to the fundamental scientific interest, this research institution has an applied focus, outlining the implications of genetically mediated trait correlations for commercial rearing operations, conservation biology, and lately population responses to climate change.

oyvind.overli@umb.no

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