As in past years, the 26th annual meeting of the Triangle Consortium for Reproductive Biology (TCRB) drew attendees from a wide area to share research and to network across institutions.
NIEHS researcher Carmen Williams, M.D., Ph.D., was a lead organizer of the Feb. 25 meeting. “We plan this event each year, partly for the great opportunity it provides trainees to network with other researchers in the region and gain experience with poster and oral presentations,” Williams said. “Attendees were exposed to much of the outstanding reproduction research that is going on in this area.”
Female gamete development
The unique pathway that germ cells follow during their development, and the roles of microenvironment and organelle sorting were highlighted in a keynote presentation by Allan Spradling, Ph.D. His lab, at the Carnegie Institute for Science in Baltimore, Maryland, studies egg development using Drosophila, or fruit flies, as a model organism.
He described a process in which compartments of cellular material inside a cell are shuffled between interconnected germ cells, before the cell divides. Throughout the talk, Spradling framed findings at the molecular level within the context of both mammalian and nonmammalian evolution.
Fellows named Campion Fund awardees
NIEHS postdoctoral fellow Xiaoqiu Wang, Ph.D., from the NIEHS Pregnancy and Female Reproduction Group, led by Francesco Demayo, Ph.D., shifted the audience’s focus to a different female reproductive tissue — the uterus. He described how the transcription factor SOX17 promotes female fertility through crosstalk between different cell populations in the endometrium, the innermost layer of the uterus.
Wang and visiting fellow Kathryn McClelland, Ph.D., were this year’s winners of the Campion Award, which is given to promising young investigators in the field of reproductive biology. The Campion Fund is sponsored by the Phyllis and Mark Leppert Foundation for Fertility Research. Since 2014, the fund has recognized eight trainees — including seven from NIEHS — during annual TCRB meetings.
McClelland presented a poster of her findings on the importance of a particular transcription factor, called COUP-TFII, for fetal testicular development.
Another NIEHS fellow, Miranda Bernhardt, Ph.D., from Williams’ Reproductive Medicine Group, also gave a talk. She discussed specific channels of calcium movement in and out of mouse oocytes and eggs in her talk titled, “TRPM7 and CaV3.2 Channels Are Key Mediators of Calcium Influx in Mouse Oocytes and Eggs.”
A fresh perspective
Kelly Ferguson, Ph.D., leader of the NIEHS Perinatal and Early Life Epidemiology Group, was one of three invited regional speakers. She discussed a long-term study of how oxidative stress and inflammation may influence fetal growth restriction.
Ferguson’s epidemiological perspective highlighted the diverse approaches to research of common interest among TCRB scientists.
The event drew trainees and researchers from North Carolina’s Triangle area and from the larger region, including from the following institutions.
- Appalachian State University.
- College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.
- Duke University.
- East Carolina University.
- Mississippi State University.
- North Carolina State University.
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- University of South Carolina.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Wake Forest University.
(David Banks is a postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award [IRTA] fellow in the NIEHS Receptor Biology Group.)