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White adipose tissue control by the peripheral nervous system (FOUNTAINU20DTP)

Project Description

White adipose tissue (WAT) accounts for 20-25% of total body mass in healthy humans and is one of the largest endocrine tissues in the body, controlling whole body energy balance and appetite. Adipocytes play a dynamic role in storing excess dietary energy in the form of triglycerides (lipogenesis) and releasing energy from stored triglycerides (lipolysis) during fasting and exercise. The balance between lipogenesis and lipolysis is tightly controlled by circulating hormones including insulin, leptin and ghrelin, and the molecular mechanisms behind this regulation is fairly well understood. Though WAT plays a pivotal role in the physiological control of homeostasis and metabolic heath, the molecular mechanisms underpinning innervation of WAT by the peripheral nervous system remain unclear. Many body tissues are under the control of the peripheral nervous system including efferent innervation (from central nervous system [CNS] to tissue) and afferent innervation (from tissue to CNS). Some information regarding efferent pathways in WAT are understood and under pharmacological exploitation for modulation of body metabolism.

This project will investigate the role of extracellular ATP acting as a neurotransmitter at purinergic receptors (P2X and P2Y) in efferent and afferent communication with mouse white adipose tissue. The student will use a combination of confocal microscopy and ex vivo physiology to investigate the role of ATP in efferent regulation of lipolysis, and Ca2+ imaging and electrophysiology in identified afferent pathways in isolated sensory neurons.

We are seeking an enthusiastic and highly motivated student to join our internationally recognised research group based within the Biomedical Research Centre on the UEA campus. The laboratory is financially well supported by British Heart Foundation, BBSRC and Industrial partners. We are a highly dynamic and lively group, and presentation of research at domestic and international conferences is encouraged.

Project supervisor:
Project sponsor: Norwich Research Park Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: 1 October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time
Studentship length: 4 years


- First degree (2:1 or above) in relevant subject
- English language (IELTS 6.5 overall, 6 in each section)


This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition. Candidates will be interviewed on either the 7th, 8th or 9th January 2020.

The NRP DTP offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP students undertake a three-month professional internship (PIPS) during their study. The internship offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

For further information and to apply, please visit our website:

Funding Notes

For funding eligibility guidance, please visit our website: View Website. Full Studentships cover a stipend (2019/0 rate: £15,009pa), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements.

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