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Gut feeling: an exploration into how visceral mechanosensation controls physiology and life cycle in a blood-sucking bug


College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

About the Project

Deanery of Biomedical Sciences

Rhodnius prolixus is a blood-sucking bug of immoderate feeding habits. It can take from its host a volume of blood sufficient to increase its own weight by about tenfold. The food-swollen gut distends the abdomen and sets in train a series of endocrinological processes that culminate in profound changes to the physiology and life cycle of the animal. These include (i) a rapid diuretic response, enabling the animal to jettison excess salts and water, returning the animal to a more comfortable state, and (ii) body growth and maturation that precede the transition to the next life phase (an older nymph or metamorphosis to adult form).

The goal of the current project is to determine how abdominal distension is sensed and transduced to elicit such dramatic changes.

A pair of mechanoreceptors have been identified in a region of the abdomen that is subject to forces related to the size and movement of the gut, suggesting these are the receptor capable of responding to stress exerted by the viscera. Taking this as a starting point you will explore the mechanisms of mechanotransduction, with a focus on identifying the molecular pathways of mechanosensation. You will map gene and protein expression using single-cell RNAseq, in situ HCR and immunohistochemistry, carry out functional studies using gene knockdown, CRISPR and pharmacological approaches, and determine physiological phenotypes using established assays including Ca2+ imaging and electrophysiology.

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. This opportunity is open to UK and international students and provides funding to cover stipend and UK level tuition fees. The UoE covers the difference between home and international fees. There is a cap on the number of international students the DTP can recruit so it is important to know in which fees status category applicants fall under when applying.

Refer to UKRI website and Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions for full eligibility criteria.



Funding Notes

Application Procedure
Download application and reference forms from View Website

Completed application form along with your supporting documents should be sent to our PGR student team at by 6th January 2021.

References: Please send the reference request form to two referees. Completed references for this project should also be returned to by the closing date: 6th January 2021.

It is your responsibility to ensure that references are provided by the specified deadline.

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