Ronald Ogbonna

Ronald Ikechi-Ogbonna

122 Wolf Hall
Phone: (302)831-2647
Fax: (302)831-3645

Alterations in BDNF and TrkB Expression in Response to Neonatal Alcohol Exposure

The Klintsova lab is concerned with studying the neural consequences of neonatal ethanol exposure and possible rehabilitation after insult. The overall purpose of my research is to analyze the plasticity of the healthy vs. damaged developing central nervous system on behavioral, cellular, and molecular levels. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) affect 1 in 100 live births, or as many as 40,000 infants yearly (NOFAS 2004). In our lab, we mimic FASD by using Long Evans rats to investigate the effects of alcohol on the developing brain. While our subjects are under the effects of alcohol exposure (AE), we analyze the regeneration of new neurons (neurogenesis) that occurs during behavioral intervention—motor task learning and exercise. My research specifically examines the expression of a neurotrophin (neural protein) involved within the phenomenon of neurogenesis in the hippocampus. The protein, Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), and its receptor, Tyrosine Kinase Receptor B (TrkB), are well known for their involvement in this process. Once BDNF (the ligand) attaches to TrkB, phosphorylation of an NMDA receptor occurs. The effect of phosphorylation assists in the activation of the NMDA receptor. During activation, NMDA allows an influx of intracellular calcium which results in the increase of cell survival, enhancement of brain plasticity, and alteration of neurogenesis (Cotman and Berchtold, 2002). Furthermore, I hypothesize that if there is an increase in neurogenesis due to wheel running after ethanol insult, there should also be an increase in the of BDNF and TrkB as well.

For more than a year, I have been working with Dr. Klintsova and have been recognized as a Science and Engineering Scholar and an Undergraduate Research Summer Fellow. I was also a recipient of an Undergraduate Research Fund Award. Upon completion of this experiment, I hope to submit an abstract to the Research Society on Alcohol in January; doing this will allow me to attend the RSA conference in July of 2008. In addition to attending the conference, I also hope to submit a paper on this research for journal publication.