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WR DTP project: Does reciprocal crosstalk between epithelium and immunocytes contribute to urothelial tissue homeostasis?

Department of Biology

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Prof J Southgate , Dr I Kourtzelis , Dr Simon Baker No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
York United Kingdom Biochemistry Cancer Biology Cell Biology Immunology Molecular Biology Pathology

About the Project

"Epithelial tissues are positioned at the interface between internal and external environments where they play a role in the fight against pathogens, both directly through innate defence mechanisms and indirectly by modulating immunocyte phenotype and activation. This interplay supports healthy tissue homeostasis by balancing effective surveillance and elimination of pathogens/mutated cells, against an equally effective dampening or resolution of inflammation, thereby serving to prevent either the development of cancers or chronicity of inflammatory states.

This project will develop a new experimental coculture system to study immunocyte:epithelial cell interactions and investigate the role of the local paracrine environment in modulating inflammation and epithelial barrier function. It will make use of a well-characterised normal human uro-epithelial cell culture system that can be induced to differentiate on membranes for introduction of immunocyte populations basally.

The aims will be to investigate reciprocal influences of a) urothelial cells on immunocyte phenotype and activation status and b) the impact of immunocyte signalling (including cytokines) on urothelial tissue homeostasis as a regenerative barrier epithelium. Normal urothelial differentiation is dependent on activation of nuclear receptor PPARγ, whilst in immune cells, PPARγ is reported to transrepress proinflammatory gene expression. This supports the starting hypothesis that PPARγ ligands produced endogenously by the urothelium provide a natural inflammation-suppressive or -resolving environment.

This project will provide training in cellular and molecular biology, in vitro experimentation and live cell imaging, immune and epithelial cell phenotyping, transcriptomics and lipidomics. The project will be suitable for a graduate in Biomedical Sciences, Biochemistry, Biology or related subjects with a strong interest and background knowledge of cancer biology and/or immunology. "

The White Rose DTP in Mechanistic Biology is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Funding Notes

This project is part of the BBSRC WR DTP in Mechanistic Biology. Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 4 years. The funding includes:
Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,285 for 2020/21)
UK tuition fees (£4,473 for 2021/22)
Research support and training charges (RSTC)
We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions. If English is not your first language, you will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for your country. Please check our website:

START DATE: 1st October 2021

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