About the Project
Despite the fact our planet is warming, we know very little about the mechanisms underlying thermal plasticity during development and how they may influence an organism’s life-time fitness. Fish are particularly vulnerable to global warming and developmental programming because they are ectothermic vertebrates that can’t control their body temperature. Developmental temperature is well-known to affect multiple life history traits in fish, including sex determination, body shape and swimming performance. Interestingly, new research suggests early exposure to warm temperatures during development may influence thermal acclimation capacities in adulthood2,3. Therefore, thermal programming may represent a promising tool to help fish cope with higher temperatures in future climate-change scenarios.
While the implications of thermal programming of thermal tolerance are far-reaching, the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are very poorly understood. Recent work suggests aspects of cardiac structure and function are programmed by temperature in fish4, which suggests the intrinsic properties of the heart have changed. Given that maintained cardiac function is central to surviving warm temperatures, we propose that thermal programming of acclimation capacities in fish occurs via epigenetic modification of cardiac excitation-contraction coupling pathways which increase the thermal tolerance limits of the heart. Therefore, this project will use epifluorescent microscopy, electrophysiology and whole-animal in vivo respirometry to assess the long-term impact of developmental temperature on cardiac function and thermal tolerance limits. Furthermore, transcriptomics and epigenetic analysis (methylation patterns) will be used to identify molecular mechanisms that confer thermal tolerance.
For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit http://www.internationalphd.manchester.ac.uk.
This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website (View Website). For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (View Website).
Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.
2 Scott, G. R. & Johnston, I. A. Temperature during embryonic development has persistent effects on thermal acclimation capacity in zebrafish. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, 14247-14252, doi:10.1073/pnas.1205012109 (2012).
3 Schaefer, J. & Ryan, A. Developmental plasticity in the thermal tolerance of zebrafish Danio rerio. Journal of Fish Biology 69, 722-734, doi:doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2006.01145.x (2006).
4 Dimitriadi, A., Beis, D., Arvanitidis, C., Adriaens, D. & Koumoundouros, G. Developmental temperature has persistent, sexually dimorphic effects on zebrafish cardiac anatomy. Scientific Reports 8, 8125, doi:10.1038/s41598-018-25991-8 (2018).
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