Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The transcriptome of BRAAAAIIINNNZZZZZ!!!11!

Molecular ecology has a neat, "it's-obvious-once-somebody-does-it" article at the intersection of behavioural ecology and molecular biology by Rey[1] and Boltana.  They took a bunch of zebrafish and separated them into groups (P and R, not sure why).  Then they confirmed their classification by repeating the experiment a while later and applied a series of standard measures of behavioural type (boldness and activity, mostly) and proceeded to mash/freeze fish brains and do some standard stuff to get transcribed mRNA[2] and a transcriptome-style analysis.  There's a lot of FDR-adjusted p-values thrown around about which things were up- or down-regulated, but the figure which highlights low/high expression differences between the groups tells you (almost) everything you need to know.

Rey and Boltana's main finding is that by pre-classifying individuals according to behavioural type they can predict some of the transcriptome variation (9% is their favourite number) and therefore make that data easier to analyze.  For anyone interested in actual animal behaviour the key finding is that you can take pretty crude behavioural measures and expect them to be related to transcription in the brain.  This kind of work gives me some real hope for bringing together neuroscience and movement/behavioural ecology.

[1] I think I got the right character there...
[2] Bonus question to any intro bio students who find this, why the liquid nitrogen?
[3] I must have blogger set to non-US spellings, it keeps complaining about "behavior" and I just comply.