U.S. Geological Survey - Environmental Health

Functional and Molecular Bioassay Laboratory — Kearneysville, West Virginia

About the Laboratory

The Functional and Molecular Bioassay Laboratory applies and modifies microbial and eukaryotic reporter bioassays to detect the presence of bioactive chemicals from environmental water samples. These analyses compliment analytical chemistry and biological datasets. The laboratory adapts and applies cell isolation and culture methods to measure cellular responses of fish immune and liver tissues exposure to contaminants or other stressors. Analyses include functional endpoints and quantitative gene expression analysis. In the instance of insufficient genetic data for the non-model species of interest, the laboratory establishes in-house de novo sequence databases via high throughput sequencing methods.

USGS Scientists Working at Laboratory Fume Hood
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist preparing plates for yeast bioassay screening of surface water extracts. Photo Credit: Luke R. Iwanowicz, USGS.

Key Analytical Capabilities

  • Bioassay screening for genotoxic, mutagenic and endocrine active compounds
  • In vitro screening and response profiling of primary leukocytes or hepatocytes
  • Image analysis-based flow cytometry
  • Quantitative gene expression analysis (quantitative polymerase chain reaction [qPCR] or digital, absolute copy measurements)
  • Identification of biomarker genes in non-model organisms
Photo of a Machine that Analyzes Transcript Abundance of Genes in a Sample
The nCounter SPRINT system simultaneously analyzes transcript abundance of hundreds of genes in a single sample. Photo Credit: Luke R. Iwanowicz, USGS.
Screen Capture of a Visualizion of an Analyis of Hepatocytes from Smallmouth Bass
Screen capture of primary hepatocytes isolated from experimental smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) visualized following image-based flow cytometric analysis. Hepatocytes with a nucleus that stains red are dead. The other cells are alive. Photo Credit: Luke R. Iwanowicz, USGS.

Key Instrumentation

  • Multimode plate reader for bioassay end-point measurements and ELISA
  • nCounter (Nanostring) for multiplex, digital, gene expression analysis
  • Image analysis-based flow cytometric analysis for functional cell assays
  • High throughput sequencing
  • Extraction equipment for solid phase extraction of water samples
Image-Based Flow Cytometer for Cell Population Analysis
Image-based flow cytometer for cell population analysis. Photo Credit: Luke R. Iwanowicz, USGS.
Multimode, microplate reader
Multimode, microplate reader used for the measurement of optical density, fluorescence, and luminescence in biological screening assays. Photo Credit: Luke R. Iwanowicz, USGS.


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