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Biological role of Stress Hormones

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description


Our lab focuses on the biological roles of peptide hormones derived from pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), a protein produced in the anterior pituitary gland. These peptides have a diverse range of biological functions from being the principle stimulators of the mammalian stress axis to the regulation of feeding.

This project proposes to further investigate the action of POMC peptides on the adrenal cortex. The adrenal is a dynamic organ that requires constant stimulation from POMC peptides to maintain its size and structure and as such can dynamically respond to periods of chronic stress. We are particularly interested in the role that the N-terminal peptide of POMC, called pro-gamma-MSH has in regulating the resident stem cell population found in the adult adrenal cortex.Previous work has resulted in the isolation of a serine protease expressed by the adrenal that appears to be involved in modulating the actions of pro-gamma-MSH converting it from an inactive precursor to an active mitogenic peptide.
This project will further investigate the mechanisms by which pro-gamma-MSH stimulates adrenal growth using both in vivo and in vitro models. The project will use a wide range of modern techniques including tissue culture, immunoblotting, molecular cloning, peptide purification/characterization and immunoassay.

This project proposal can be modified to suit the interests of the applicant, although should be in the pituitary/adrenal area.

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.



Bicknell AB et al (2001) Cell 105: 903-912.
Harmer SC and Bicknell AB (2005) Peptides 26:1944-1951.
Harmer SC et al (2008) J. Endocrinology 196: 149-158.
Bicknell KA et al (2009) Mol Endocrinology 300: 71-76

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