Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now

  HDAC4 tetramerisation and neuronal dysfunction

   School of Natural Sciences

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr Helen Fitzsimons  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A three-year Marsden-funded PhD scholarship in Biochemistry is available to study the role of HDAC4 tetramerisation in neuronal dysfunction in the neurogenetics laboratory of Dr Helen Fitzsimons in the School of Natural Sciences at Massey University in Palmerston North.

Background: Our research programme is focused on understanding the molecular processes that are required for formation and storage of memory, and how their disruption can lead to neurological disease. In recent years it has become clear that abnormal accumulation of the histone deacetylase HDAC4 in neuronal nuclei is associated with both neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, and in our Drosophila model, increased nuclear HDAC4 also impairs neuronal development and memory.   When increased in abundance in nuclei, HDAC4 forms into aggregates, which is mediated through an N-terminal a-helix. We have determined that mutation of amino acids predicted to prevent tetramerisation both prevents aggregate formation and reverses any developmental deficits. These preliminary data strongly suggest that the aggregates are responsible for the impairments, but it is not clear what causes these aggregates to form, their composition and what it is that makes them pathogenic.

The project: This project seeks to answer these questions. Approaches include determining the impact of specific mutations on the formation of the N-terminal  a-helix and tetramer of recombinant HDAC4 protein via a variety of biochemical techniques under the guidance of co-supervisor Assoc Prof Andrew Sutherland-Smith. It will also include testing strategies to ameliorate aggregation-induced impairments in Drosophila models of neurodegeneration.

Candidate profile: Applicants should have a relevant postgraduate degree relevant to the above-described research areas and be highly motivated and able to work as part of a team. Experience in molecular biology is required and a background in neuroscience and/or Drosophila genetics would be an advantage.

Apply by submitting a written letter of interest which includes your previous research interests and experience as well as your CV, academic transcript and contact details of three academic referees.

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

The PhD scholarship is NZD 35,000 (tax free) per year for 3 years including tuition fees. Candidates are expected to check they meet Massey University PhD admission requirements
Due to the current border restrictions, this opportunity is currently only available to applicants already in New Zealand.