University of Calgary

Matt (Mathilakath) Vijayan

  • Professor
  • Tier I CRC Eco & Env Physiol
  • Integrative Cell Biology

Currently Teaching

Research Interests

My research program is focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in stress tolerance. Specifically, the goal is to discover novel cellular signaling molecules and transduction pathways activated by stressors, revealing hormonal regulation of these stress adaptive pathways, and the integration of these responses at the whole animal level to regain homeostasis. An overriding theme of my research is to understand the regulatory role of corticosteroids either alone or in conjunction with other endocrine pathways in allowing animals to cope with stress. Broadly the goals are to i) elucidate the pathways that are corticosteroid responsive and critical for developmental programming, growth and metabolism, ii) identify pathways that are sensitive to toxicants (critical window) during the early developmental phase, and iii) determine the long term, including multigenerational, implications on growth and performance associated with endocrine disruption by maternal transfer of xenobiotics in fish. This is currently being explored using a combination of genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and methylomics approaches, along with genetic manipulations, including gene knockout using CRISPR-Cas9 in zebrafish. The whole animal studies utilize a variety of fish species, including zebrafish, fathead minnows and rainbow trout. I am also actively involved in developing molecular and behavioral biomarkers of exposure and effects associated with emerging contaminants in municipal wastewater effluents.

Some of the current projects in the lab are: 

1. Maternal stresseffects -Studies are examining the regulation of maternal cortisol deposition in oocytes, and its effect on developmental programming of growth and stress response.

2. Stress signalling - Studies using glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) knockout zebrafish are exploring how these receptor activation either alone or in combination modulates growth, metabolism, and stress coping.

3. Novel Stress Signalling – studies are focussed on identifying the mechanisms leading to the rapid nongenomic cortisol signalling. Also, studies are looking at the role of exosomes in intercellular signalling, and cross-tissue communications.

4. Endocrine disruption – The major focus here is to understand the mechanisms by which maternal transfer of contaminants impacts developmental programming, and causes long-term and multigenerational effects.

5. Municipal wastewater effluent effects – using zebrafish, and as well as caging studies with native fish species in Alberta, studies are exploring the impacts of complex mixtures on stress axis, brain function and behaviour. 

6. Stress and glucose intolerance: Studies are underway teasing out the intracellular signalling pathways, and hormonal cross-talk, by which stress and glucocorticoids affect glucose uptake and metabolism.

7. Developing knockout strains of zebrafish for stress research – We have a few stress axis genes knockout mutants currently they are being characterized to understand their role in stress coping mechanisms.

Graduate Students




Title of Research Project

Analisa Lazaro-Cote


Salmon egg contaminant loading impact on progeny fitness

Andrew Thompson


Venlafaxine effects on brain function and behavior

Chinmayee Das

2013- 2017

Nongenomic cortisol signaling




Title of Research Project

Femilarani Antomagesh


Role of GR activation in regulating skeletal muscle glucose uptake

Xinci Li


Developmental origin of stress-related disorders

Niepukoli Nipu


Role of GR in feeding regulation

Chris Hooey


Transcriptome of fathead minnow exposed to MMWE

 Current PDFs 

Erin Faught


Interaction of GR and MR activation on fish physiology

Patrick Gauthier


Toxicant effects on fish behaviour – developing new biomarkers, and modelling approaches


Selected Publications

Selected Publications since 2016 (see google scholar for complete list) (h-Index: 57)

1.         Faught, E., and Vijayan, M.M. 2019. Postnatal triglyceride accumulation is regulated by the mineralocorticoid receptor under basal and stress conditions. J. Physiol. Doi: 10.1113/JP278088.

2.         Gauthier, P.T., and Vijayan, M.M. 2019. A rapid zebrafish embryo behavioural biosensor that is capable of detecting environmental b-blockers. Environ. Pollut. 250: 493-502.

3.         Faught, E., and Vijayan, M.M. 2019. Loss of the glucocorticoid receptor in zebrafish improves muscle glucose availability and increases growth. Am. J. Physiol. Endocrinol. Metab. 316: E1093-E1104.

4.         Sandhu, N., Liang, L., McGeer, J., Dores, R.M., and Vijayan, M.M. 2019. Cadmium disrupts melanocortin 2 receptor signalling in rainbow trout. Aquat. Toxicol. 209: 26-33.

5.         Faught, E., and Vijayan, M.M. 2018. The mineralocorticoid receptor is essential for stress axis regulation in zebrafish larvae. Sci. Rep. 8(1): 18081.

6.         Faught, E., and Vijayan, M.M. 2018. Maternal stress and fish reproduction: the role of cortisol revisited. Fish and Fisher. 19: 1016-1030.

7.         Thomas, J., Birceanu, O., Sadoul, B., and Vijayan, M.M. 2018. Bisphenol A in eggs impairs the long-term stress performance of rainbow trout in two generations. Environ. Sci. Technol. 52: 7951-7961.

8.         Lazaro-Cote, A., Sadoul, B., Jackson, L.J., and Vijayan, M.M. 2018. Acute stress response on fathead minnows caged downstream of municipal wastewater treatment plants in the Bow River, Calgary. PLOS ONE 13(6): e0198177.

9.         Das, C., Thraya, M., and Vijayan, M.M. Nongenomic cortisol signalling in fish. Gen. Comp. Endocrinol. 265: 121-127.

10.     Gauthier, P., and Vijayan, M.M. 2018. Nonlinear mixed-modelling discriminates the effect of chemicals and their mixtures on zebrafish behaviour. Sci. Rep. 8: 1999.

11.     Gauthier, P.T., Evenset, A., Christensen, G.N., Jorgensen, E.H., and Vijayan, M.M. 2018. Lifelong exposure to PCBs in the remote Norwegian Arctic disrupts the plasma stress metabolome in Arctic charr. Environ. Sci. Technol. 52: 868-876.

12.     Philip, A.M., Jorgensen, E.H., Maule, A.G., and Vijayan, M.M. 2018. Extended fasting does not affect the liver innate immune response in rainbow trout. Dev. Comp. Immunol. 79: 67-74.

13.     Sadoul, B., Birceanu, O., Aluru, N., Thomas, J.K., and Vijayan, M.M. 2017. Bisphenol A in eggs causes development-specific liver molecular reprogramming in two generations of rainbow trout. Sci. Rep. 7: 1431.

14.     Thompson, W.A., Arnold, V.I., and Vijayan, M.M. 2017. Venlafaxine in embryos stimulates neurogenesis and disrupts larval behaviour in zebrafish. Environ. Sci. Technol. 51: 12889-12897.

15.     Best, C., Kurrasch, D.M., and Vijayan, M.M. 2017. Maternal cortisol stimulates neurogenesis and affects larval behaviour in zebrafish. Sci. Rep. 7:40905.

16.     Faught, E., Henrickson, L., and Vijayan, M.M. 2017. Plasma exosomes are enriched in Hsp70 and modulated by stress and cortisol in rainbow trout. J Endocrinol. 232 (2): 237-246.

17.     Faught, E., and Vijayan, M.M. 2016. Mechanisms of cortisol action in fish hepatocytes. Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol. Sep; 199:136-45.

18.     Nesan, D., Vijayan, M.M., 2016. Maternal Cortisol Mediates Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Interrenal Axis Development in Zebrafish. Sci. Rep. 6, 22582.

19.     Faught, E., Best, C., Vijayan, M.M., 2016. Maternal stress-associated cortisol stimulation may protect embryos from cortisol excess in zebrafish. R. Soc. Open Sci. 3, 160032.

Book Chapters

20. Faught, E., Hernandez-Perez, J., Wilson, J., and Vijayan M.M. 2019. Chapter 8: The stress response to environmental Changes. In Climate Change and Non-infectious Fish Disorders. Edited by Woo, PTK and Iwama, G. CABI, Wallingford, UK. [In Press]

21.     Sadoul B., and Vijayan, M.M. 2016. Stress and Growth. Fish Physiology Vol 35: Biology of Stress in Fish. Edited by C.B. Schreck, L. Tort, Farrell, A. and Brauner, C.J. Elsevier, New York. Pp 167-205

22.      Faught, E., Aluru, N. and Vijayan, M.M. 2016. The Molecular Stress Response. Fish Physiology Vol 35: Biology of Stress in Fish. Edited by C.B. Schreck, L. Tort, Farrell, A. and Brauner, C.J. Elsevier, New York. Pp 113-166



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