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Targeting protein acetylation to reduce microglia activation in neurodegenerative disorders

   Faculty of Biological Sciences

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  Dr Ian Wood, Dr L H Jiang  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Recently, inhibitors of histone deacetylase enzymes (HDACs) have been identified as having potential therapeutic value for a range of neuronal disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and stroke [1, 2]. The HDAC inhibitors have been shown to have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties yet their mechanism of action remains unidentified. We have recently shown that microglia activation by a number of insults (eg Amyloid beta, LPS and interferon) can be reduced by HDAC inhibitors [1]. Using siRNA we have identified HDAC1 and HDAC2 as the important HDAC enzymes for this response [1]. Whilst still don’t know the mechanism by which HDAC inhibitors block microglia activation we have shown that it doesn’t require new protein synthesis so is unlikely to be a result of the well characterised effect of these inhibitors on increasing gene expression. We are currently investigating the cellular mechanism(s) involved in the inhibition and identifying the molecular targets involved. Current HDAC inhibitors are non-selective and their long-term use is thought to impair cognition due to widespread off target effects and identifying the mechanism by which they reduce excessive microglia activation would open up novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.

We have a number of candidate proteins that are known to be involved in regulating microglia activation and are modulated by acetylation. We plan to test these candidates and we are currently performing a screen of all microglia proteins to identify which proteins are differentially acetylated in response to microglia activation and HDAC inhibition which should provide novel targets to characterise. The project will involve the use of cell culture methods of primary and immortalised microglia, functional assays to quantify cell responses such as proliferation, apoptosis and migration as well as biochemical and molecular approaches to quantify cytokine production (ELISA) and changes in gene and protein expression (RT-PCR, western, immunofluorescence).


Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. A Masters degree is desirable but not essential. 

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid.

How to apply

To apply for this project applicants should complete an online application form and attach the following documentation to support their application. 

  • a full academic CV
  • degree certificate and transcripts of marks
  • Evidence that you meet the University's minimum English language requirements (if applicable)
  • Evidence of funding

To help us identify that you are applying for this project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;

  • Select PhD in Biological Sciences as your programme of study
  • Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert

For further information please contact the Faculty Graduate School - [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Self-funded students: International or domestic self-funded or scholarship/fellowship PhD students are always welcome to apply. International students must have a good command of both written and spoken English. Most importantly, bench fees will be required if you are self-funded. Applications can be made throughout the year.


Durham, B.S., R. Grigg, and I.C. Wood, Inhibition of histone deacetylase 1 or 2 reduces induced cytokine expression in microglia through a protein synthesis independent mechanism. J Neurochem, 2017.

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