I am a PhD student in the Brown Lab at Portland State University. I study genomic structural variation, specifically copy number variation. Copy number variation is when there is more or less than the “normal” biallelic frequency of a region of DNA. Often times this is manifested as deletion or duplication of a gene.
The prototypical example of copy number variation is human salivary amylase. Salivary amylase is found in mammalian saliva and helps break starch down into sugar. The salivary amylase gene is present in different population at 2-16 copies. Increased copies of the gene results in a higher level of salivary amylase protein. And human populations with historically high starch diets have higher copies of the salivary amylase gene. Check out Perry, et al. (2007) for more details.
I utilize zebrafish as a model for my research. We know that different strains of zebrafish have differing loads of copy numbers variants (see Brown 2012) and that when exposed to the environmental pollutant polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), these strains have differing susceptibilities as larvae (see Waits and Nebert 2011).
I have shown that adults have differing expression levels of RNA expression for two known biomarkers of PCB exposure: aryl hydrocarbon receptor 2 (AHR2) and cytochrome P450 subtype 1A (CYP1A). And my next step is too look at ALL the genes that are expressed following PCB exposure. If you want to know more, just send me a message. I love to talk about my research!