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Understanding the structure and function of human aquaporins: combining site-directed mutagenesis and mammalian cell culture techniques to elucidate the key residues of AQP proteins required for these processes

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

About This PhD Project

Project Description

PhD Research project:
Aquaporins are an ancient family of proteins that provide a route for water to rapidly move in and out of cells in response to the changing needs of the body. Aquaporins have been implicated in a variety of illnesses involving the transport of water and other molecules, such as brain swelling after stroke or trauma, obesity, urine production defects and dry skin conditions.
Humans have 13 different aquaporins that allow water to pass at different speeds and have different selectivity behaviour (e.g. for glycerol and urea). Despite this, all of the aquaporins seem to have very similar structures, so we want to investigate three things:
1. How do the different aquaporins have different rates of water transport?
2. How does the selectivity mechanism work?
3. How are aquaporins regulated in the cell and by what molecular partners?

We use molecular techniques to understand how the overall amino acid structure contributes to the function and regulation of AQPs. This project will combine site-directed mutagenesis and mammalian cell culture techniques to elucidate the key residues of AQP proteins required for these processes. We are also interested in the potential cellular partners of AQPs required for both structural and functional integrity.
Understanding the basic mechanisms controlling how aquaporins function could lead to new medicine for many problems including the devastating effects of brain swelling and a number of other disorders.
Dr Alex Conner ‘s website: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/cem/CVRS/conner-alex.aspx)
Our group is a member of the membrane protein structure and function group (http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/mds/domains/cardio-resp-neuro/vascular-inflammation/membrane-protein-structure-and-function/index.aspx) and also part of the Centre for Cardiovascular Sciences (http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/mds/centres/cardiovascular/index.aspx)

Person Specification
Applicants should have a background in biology, biochemistry or biophysics; they should have a commitment to molecular research and hold or realistically expect to obtain at least an Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a relevant subject.

How to apply

Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Alex Conner: Email:

To be considered for the studentship, please send the following documents to :

• A detailed CV;
• Names and addresses of two referees;
• A covering letter highlighting your research experience/capabilities;
• Copies of your degree certificates with transcripts;
• Evidence of your proficiency in the English language, if applicable.

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