Emmanuel Nkounkou

Eman Nkounkou

University of New Hampshire

Neuroscience & Behavior


Mentor: Dr. David Platchetzki, Department of Molecular, Cellular & Biomedical Sciences

Evolutionary Biology of Sensory Receptors and Pathway Component in Cnidaria

Senses are systems within our body that help construct how we perceive the world. Phototransduction and sensory processes are important in all animals in the detection and reaction to certain stimuli such as light. Hydrae are members of an ancient group of organisms that possess key functions and proteins related to certain sensory pathways and receptor proteins in specialized cells called cnidocytes, which detect light and regulate behavioral functions of the animal. The specific model organism in this experiment is a freshwater Hydra magnipapillata. Through the process of immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization, the experiment will show which sensory receptors and pathway components are expressed in the cells of the hydra. I predict that Hydra will give us a better understanding of the evolutionary biology and history of senses and sensory systems. With this new information, advancements can be made about our knowledge of sensory pathways and sensory receptors' functions and evolutionary development. Leading to potential cutting-edge technology used to improve people with non-functional sensory receptors and neurons that are involved in vision and other senses. Through the process of fixing and permeabilizing Hydra samples and then incubating the hydra samples in the Stellaris RNA probe solution. These Stellaris RNA probes will hybridize to certain RNA transcripts of known sequences of sensory receptors and pathway components in hydra. The fluorescent dyes bonded to the RNA stellaris probes to make the target RNA transcripts of sensory receptors and pathway components fluorescent and visible through a confocal microscope. The proposed research will examine if Hydra sensory biology is prerequisite to the function of different senses and potentially learn more of the evolutionary biology of certain sensory pathways and their components.

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