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Faculty Mentor

Matthew Beckmann, Ph.D.


The model organism, Daphnia magna, is a freshwater crustacean with a unique phenotype rarely seen in nature. Daphnia are cyclopic organism, meaning they are an animal with only one eye. Due to this particular characteristic, Daphnia are of particular interest in studying the hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway, responsible for eye, brain, and midline formation during early embryonic development. We are interested as to the application of this knowledge seeing that cyclopia occurs in humans. Though incompatible with life, cyclopia occurs 1.05 in every 100,000 births. Cyclopia is the most severe form of holoprosencephaly, a group of developmental disorders that result from mutations within the hedgehog gene. Varying rates of expression from hedgehog mutations results in an array of developmental disorders ranging from cyclopia to cleft palette and other midline abnormalities. Since mutations in the hedgehog gene cause potentially life threatening developmental disorders in humans, such as cyclopia, we have chosen to study a naturally cyclopic model organism as a way to better understand the implications of the hedgehog gene. The goal of this research is to visualize hedgehog gene expression within D. magna as a way to better understand the organism’s cyclopic nature. If the Hh gene is responsible for eye development and midline development, then we will see gene expression along the midline and in the head region of the embryos. We also suspect that if hedgehog expression is reduced in daphnia as a result of its cyclopic phenotype, then we might see an area of non-expression within the head region.

Publication Date



hedgehog gene, Daphnia magna, hybridization



Visualizing hedgehog gene expression in the model organism Daphnia magna using in situ hybridization