Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Robert K. Dearth

Second Advisor

Dr. Mario Gil

Third Advisor

Dr. Nirakar Sahoo


Neurogenesis is a critical component of fetal neurodevelopment consisting of: migration, proliferation and differentiation. Health concerns from anxiety to reproductive issues have been linked to alterations of neurogenesis processes. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can mimic hormones vital to this process, potentially adversely affecting the susceptible fetal brain. One EDC, Levonorgestrel (LNG), is a testosterone-like progestin used in birth control methods that has a high bioavailability and long half-life. Using zebrafish embryos as a model, this lab previously discovered that an environmentally relevant LNG dose (5 ng/L) significantly increased anxiety behaviors. The hypothalamus is responsible for the development of behavior and puberty and is rich in steroidogenic receptors. Thus, I sought to determine if the behavioral changes were linked to neural changes in the hypothalamus. The present study reveals that LNG exposure before zygotic transcription until post fertilization day 5 increases neural differentiation that can be linked to behavioral changes.


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