Phone: (919) 843-7292
Dr. Tarantino’s laboratory uses animal models to identify genes that increase risk for psychiatric disorders including anxiety, depression and addiction. The lab employs a variety of forward genetic approaches in the mouse including quantitative trait locus mapping, chemical mutagenesis and genome-wide association studies in inbred mouse strains. They recently completed a genome wide association study in 45 inbred mouse strains and identified multiple loci that were associated with cocaine-induced locomotor activation. In follow-up studies, they plan to confirm loci and study various aspects of initial sensitivity to cocaine by further characterization of strains at the extreme ends of the phenotypic distribution. The lab also works on an ENU-induced mutant, Highper, that has increased sensitivity to both the locomotor and rewarding effects of cocaine as well as a prolonged stress response. The causative mutation in the Highper mouse has been putatively identified and the Tarantino lab is working now to understand its functional significance. The laboratory has also identified a spontaneous mutant that exhibits abnormal vocalization behavior and they are currently using a variety of genetic and genomic approaches to identify the causative mutation. Finally, since environment plays a significant role in the development of psychiatric disease, the Tarantino lab also examines the effects of prenatal environmental exposures that have been associated with increased risk for anxiety and depression.