Diana Francis

Tracking the Expression of Sleep-related Genes in the Cassiopea Jellyfish

Sleep behavior in Cassiopea, the upside-down jellyfish, challenges the common association between sleep and brain function. In lieu of a brain and centralized nervous system (CNS), Cassiopea has a decentralized net of ganglia that initiate pulsing activity at a slower rate during the night. My project seeks to understand how an animal that lacks a CNS undergoes a whole-body behavioral state change. More specifically, I will examine how this behavior affects the expression of several genes connected to sleep and activity using in situ hybridization and quantitative PCR. These genes encode an acetylcholine receptor subunit, choline acetyltransferase, a GABAergic receptor, a sodium-calcium exchanger, and a glutathione S-transferase. Characterizing the expression of these genes will help illustrate the connection between ganglion usage and sleep behavior. I will silence one gene of interest, the acetylcholine receptor subunit, using RNA interference, and compare the gene expression of sleep-deprived jellyfish to those of jellyfish with undisturbed sleep. Through this process, I hope to gain a better understanding of this gene’s functional role in sleep.

Message to Sponsor

I would like to thank my donor for this wonderful opportunity. My involvement in research has motivated me to keep going despite the challenges of the pandemic, and I am grateful that this summer I get to continue doing the work that motivates me. The support of my donor will allow me to gain confidence in my skills as a researcher and to devote more time to my project than I would be able to do during the school year.
  • Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Sponsor: Rose Hill Foundation
  • Mentor: Richard Harland