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Biological role of neurooestrogens in behaviour

School of Biological Sciences

Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Our laboratory primarily investigates animal behaviour through the lens of neuroendocrinology i.e. hormones. We are interested in non-classical ways in which hormones may act to regulate behaviours. Our model system is the control of social behaviours and anxiety by oestrogens in the rodent. Typically oestrogens are made by the gonads but we are especially interested in the relevance of oestrogens made in the brain itself, since these neurooestrogens may act as neurotransmitters. The classical understanding of oestrogen signaling is that oestrogens can regulate gene transcription slowly via well-characterized intracellular receptors. However, in the last decade, a novel mode of oestrogen signaling termed non-genomic signaling has emerged where oestrogens can also rapidly activate kinases or calcium flux by binding a receptor on the plasma membrane. The significance of rapid, non-genomic signaling for behaviour has been underexplored
One of our objectives is to investigate both the production and relevance of neurooestrogens in driving behaviour. This project is designed to test the hypothesis that rapid signaling by locally brain-produced oestrogens is necessary for social behaviour, using male mice as a model. Our hypothesis stems from our experimental observation that an inhibitor to the enzyme aromatase, which synthesizes oestrogen from testosterone, can block aggressive behaviour in male mice. In order to investigate the production of neuroestrogens, we will measure neurooestrogen concentrations in areas of the brain that are relevant to this social behaviour. Secondly, we will selectively knockout aromatase in these areas and measure social behaviour in these mice. If successful, this project will demonstrate for the first time in a mammalian model, the importance of locally produced steroids. Techniques include radioimmunoassays, molecular biological techniques, surgical manipulation with genetically modified mouse models, cell line and mouse behavioural analysis. The student will be part of a vibrant endocrine group at the University of Reading, with an opportunity to get concomitant training in teaching pedagogy. In addition, the student will also have an opportunity to network with the investigator’s overseas collaborators.

Keywords: endocrine, oestrogen, hormone, animal behaviour, aromatase, sexual dimorphism.

Funding Notes

Applications will be considered from any candidate who holds (or expects to obtain) at least a 2:1 or 1st Class Honours Degree in a Biology related subject. Molecular Biological or Behavioural experience a plus, but not necessary.


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