Skip to main content
photograph of Dr. Jan Spitsbergen

Jan Spitsbergen

Assistant Professor (Senior Research)
Department of Microbiology

Jan Spitsbergen

Assistant Professor (Senior Research)
Department of Microbiology

Teaching experience

Taught Introductory and Advanced Finfish Histology, Histopathology and Neoplasia for 7 years in the Aquavet I and Aquavet II programs (Cornell Aquavet) while on the faculty in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University; have participated in team teaching of Health and Colony Management of Laboratory Fish for 11 years at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine; participated in curriculum revision at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell to institute Socratic case-based small group learning as a key feature of the medical education process.

Ecampus: Adapted Microbiology 330, Disease and Society, for presentation as an Extended Campus course first offered in Summer 2014. The course focuses on the effects of social and economic inequality on health and disease in the U.S. and globally and is part of the Baccalaureate Core at Oregon State University. It fulfills the requirement for credits in the Difference Power and Discrimination category.

Participated in team taught course Fish and Invertebrate Health Management for students in the Aquarium Science Program at Oregon Coast Community College 2011-2015. Taught infectious and noninfectious diseases of aquatic animals.


My research has included studies of

  • a protist parasite affecting early life stages of zebrafish,
  • 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) toxicology and associated lesions in a variety of fish species,
  • studies of interactions of halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons with disease resistance and immune responses of salmonids,
  • early life stage toxicity of TCDD and PCBs in salmonids,
  • effects of TCDD on sexual development,
  • fecundity and fertility in zebrafish,
  • nutritional pathology,
  • field studies investigating the causes of tumor epizootics in brown bullhead, white suckers and lake trout,
  • studies of gamma radiation, simulated galactic cosmic rays and ultraviolet radiation on the lens of eyes in zebrafish

My research group at Cornell University discovered thiamine deficiency as the basis for a devastating, longstanding stage-specific early life stage mortality problem causing reproductive failure in landlocked Atlantic salmon in certain of New York’s Finger Lakes. We found that consumption of a diet high in the introduced forage fish alewives caused the thiamine deficiency in breeding female fish due to high levels of thiaminase in the alewife tissues.

I have investigated dietary, husbandry, infectious, and genetic influences on susceptibility of zebrafish to spontaneous and carcinogen-induced tumors. I have collaborated with Dr. Donald Buhler of Oregon State University to clarify the roles of various cytochrome P450 enzymes in the carcinogenesis processes in zebrafish. I have a longstanding collaboration with Dr. Zhiyuan Gong of the National University of Singapore to characterize gene expression in liver neoplasia using the zebrafish model to better understand the role of specific oncogenes and interactions between suites of oncogenes in the carcinogenesis process.


Ph.D. Cornell University

DVM Michigan State University

B.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Michigan State University


  • Yan C, Yang Q, Shen HM, Spitsbergen JM, Gong Z. 2017. Chronically high level of tgfb1a induction causes both hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma via a dominant Erk pathway in zebrafish. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.20357.
  • Grzelak AK, Davis DJ, Caraker SM, Crim MJ, Spitsbergen JM, Charles E Wiedmeyer. 2017. Stress leukogram induced by acute and chronic stress in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Comparative Medicine. Volume 67, Issue 3, Pages 263-269.
  • Li Y, HLi, Spitsbergen JM, Gong Z. 2017. Males develop faster and more severe hepatocellular carcinoma than females in krasV12 transgenic zebrafish. Scientific reports. Volume 7, Issue 1, Pages 41280. DOI: 10.1038/srep41280.
  • Ju B, Chen W, Orr BA, Spitsbergen JM, Jia S, Eden CJ, Henson HE, Taylor MR. 2015. Oncogenic KRAS promotes malignant brain tumors in zebrafish. Molecular cancer. Volume 14, Pages 1-11. DOI 10.1186/s12943-015-0288-2.
  • Wolf JC, Baumgartner WA, Blazer VS, Camus AC, Engelhardt JA, Fournie JW, Frasca Jr S, Groman DB, Kent ML, Khoo LH, Law JM, Lombardini ED, Ruehl-Fehlert C, Segner HE, Smith SA, Spitsbergen JM, Weber K, Wolfe MJ. 2015. Nonlesions, misdiagnoses, missed diagnoses, and other interpretive challenges in fish histopathology studies: a guide for investigators, authors, reviewers, and readers. Toxicologic pathology. Volume 43, Issue 3, Pages 297-325.
  • Stewart AM, Braubach O, Spitsbergen JM, Gerlai R, Kalueff AV. 2014. Zebrafish models for translational neuroscience research: from tank to bedside. Trends in neurosciences. Volume 37, Issue 5, Pages 264-278. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2014.02.011.
  • Li Z, Zheng W, Wang Z, Zeng Z, Zhan H, Li C, Zhou L, Yan C, Spitsbergen JM, Gong Z. 2013. A transgenic zebrafish liver tumor model with inducible Myc expression reveals conserved Myc signatures with mammalian liver tumors. Disease models & mechanisms. Volume 6, Issue 2, Pages 414-423.
  • Li Z, Huang X, Zhan H, Zeng Z, Li C, Spitsbergen JM, Meierjohann S, Schartl M, Gong Z. 2012. Inducible and repressable oncogene-addicted hepatocellular carcinoma in Tet-on xmrk transgenic zebrafish. Journal of hepatology. Volume 56, Issue 2, Pages 419-425. ttps://
  • Anh Tuan Nguyen, Alexander Emelyanov, Chor Hui Vivien Koh, Jan M Spitsbergen, Serguei Parinov, Zhiyuan Gong. 2012. An inducible krasV12 transgenic zebrafish model for liver tumorigenesis and chemical drug screening. Disease models & mechanisms. Volume 5, Issue 1, Pages 63-72.
  • Menke AL, Spitsbergen JM, Wolterbeek A, Woutersen RA. 2011. Normal Anatomy and Histology of the Adult Zebrafish. Toxicologic pathology. Volume 39, Issue 5, Pages 759-775.
  • Balla KM, Lugo-Villarino G, Spitsbergen JM, Stachura DL, Hu Y, Banuelos K, Romo-Fewell O, Aroian RV, Traver D. 2010. Eosinophils in the zebrafish: prospective isolation, characterization, and eosinophilia induction by helminth determinants. Blood, The Journal of the American Society of Hematology. Volume 116, Issue 19.
  • Lam SH, Wu YL, Vega VB, Miller LD, Spitsbergen J, Tong Y, Zhan H, Govindarajan KR, Lee S, Mathavan S, Krishna Murthy KR, Buhler DR, Liu ET, Gong Z. 2006. Conservation of gene expression signatures between zebrafish and human liver tumors and tumor progression. Nature biotechnology. Volume 24, Issue 1.
  • Shepard JL, Amatruda JF, Stern HM, Subramanian A, Finkelstein D, Ziai J, Finley KR, Pfaff KL, Hersey C, Zhou Y, Barut B, Freedman M, Lee C, Spitsbergen J, Neuberg D, Weber G, Golub TR, Glickman JN, Kutok JL, Aster JC, Zon LI. 2005. A zebrafish bmyb mutation causes genome instability and increased cancer susceptibility. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Volume 102, Issue 37.
  • Spitsbergen JM, Kent ML. 2003. The state of the art of the zebrafish model for toxicology and toxicologic pathology research—advantages and current limitations. Toxicologic Pathology. Volume 31, Issue 1.