What makes frogs less sensitive to the toxicity of dioxin pollutants than other life forms? Professor of Biology Wade Powell and the students working in his laboratory will continue to explore the answer for three more years, thanks to a $302,527 renewal grant supporting Powell’s research from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).
Powell’s project, titled “Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AHR) Multiplicity in a Frog Model of Dioxin Toxicity,” examines the way in which the protein AHR influences the effect of dioxin on the African clawed frog, a popular model animal due to its close evolutionary relationship to humans.
Dioxin, an environmental contaminant, is a byproduct of plastic waste incineration and some manufacturing processes, such as herbicide production and paper bleaching. AHR binds to dioxin and similar chemicals and mediates their impact on humans and animals. Frogs surprisingly are resistant to dioxin toxicity because they have two AHRs instead of one, as mice and people have. “The focus of this grant is to figure out the importance of having two receptors,” Powell said.
Powell’s research team consists of four to six students each year, including participants in the Summer Science Scholars program. The grant will pay for equipment and supplies, student stipends and travels to national and international meetings.
Powell’s lab exposes students to research opportunities rarely available to undergraduates. “It gives students the opportunity to do very sophisticated work on a highly professional level,” Powell said.
The NIEHS has supported Powell’s research for 13 years, benefiting dozens of students who have contributed to a steady stream of discoveries. The NIEHS is one of 27 research institutes and centers that comprise the National Institutes of Health. Its mission is to discover how the environment affects people so they can live healthier lives.