Diversity Supplement: Ambystoma Genetic Stock Center

Grants and Contracts Details


The Ambystoma Genetic Stock Center (AGSC) is the only federally funded resource center that distributes Mexican axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum), a salamander that provides living materials in support of biomedical research nationally and internationally. Most notably, axolotls are unique among vertebrates in being able to regenerate numerous tissues and body parts. These include the spinal cord, limbs, jaw, retina, brain, heart, and tail, all of which can be regenerated at any point during embryonic, larval, and adult life. Also, axolotls are used by researchers that work in additional areas, including neurobiology, ecotoxicology, development, physiology, cell biology, genetics, genomics, and evolution. The AGSC ensures the health and long-term sustainability of the axolotl population, and the distribution of axolotl resources to NIH-funded investigators. Specific Aims of the Parent Grant that are Relevant to this Supplement Request Specific Aim 1. Efficiently manage, produce, and distribute Mexican axolotls to enable biomedical research. An important aspect of axolotl stock management is the monitoring of extrinsic environmental variables that can affect animal health, which in turn can affect the reproducibility of experiments performed using axolotls and long-term sustainability of the AGSC population. While the AGSC rigorously monitors water quality, diet, temperature, and light, very little is known about microbial species that may affect axolotl health. Thus, there is need to characterize the ecological community of microorganisms that constitute the axolotl microbiome. Under this Aim, Mirindi Kabangu will receive training in axolotl husbandry, skin-swab sampling, tissue dissection, tissue collection, DNA isolation, whole-genome shotgun DNA sequencing, and bioinformatic analysis of big data. With this training, Mirindi will perform the first metagenomic survey of AGSC axolotls, an important first step towards understanding the axolotl microbiome and an important first step in Mirindi’s training as a research scientist. Specific Aim 2. Make axolotl information, protocols, and learning activities available to investigators and educators. The AGSC is more than a stock center, it also serves as an information hub. The AGSC innovates methods for husbandry and axolotl stock management, and makes protocols available to the community. Recently, AGSC axolotls tested positive for a chytrid fungal strain (Dendrobatis ) that is associated with global die-offs of anuran amphibians. While few D.b. spores were detected and infected axolotls did not show clinical signs of disease, additional studies are needed to determine how and when Db was introduced into the AGSC population. More generally, there is need to develop qPCR-based protocols for monitoring species that may affect axolotl health. Under this Aim, Mirindi Kabangu will receive training in the development of qPCR assays for monitoring microbial species in the AGSC. Through the development of microbial monitoring protocols that are needed by the axolotl community, Mirindi will make important scientific contributions that will spur his early career development.
Effective start/end date3/1/152/28/21


  • Office of the Director


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