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Role and regulation of calcium signalling during early embryogenesis

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  • Full or part time
    Dr K Dorey
    Prof E Amaya
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Embryonic development requires exquisite regulation of several essential processes, such as patterning of tissues and organs, cell fate decisions and morphogenesis. Intriguingly, these diverse processes are controlled by only a handful of signalling pathways, and mis-regulation in one or more of these pathways may result in a variety of congenital defects and diseases such as cancer. Consequently, it is important to investigate how these signalling pathways are regulated at the molecular level to understand the mechanisms underlying vertebrate embryogenesis, but also to identify new therapeutic strategies for human diseases.
Calcium is a divalent ion used as a versatile and universal messenger implicated in the regulation of embryonic development. Intracellular calcium concentration is tightly regulated in time and space and the frequency and amplitude of its release triggers specific responses by mechanisms that are still poorly understood. In early development, it has been shown that calcium transients increase during the process of gastrulation in different animal species leading to the hypothesis that calcium is involved in the regulation of cell shape and cell movements. Using the frog Xenopus as a model, live imaging, structure/function analyses and functional assays we want to answer the following questions:
- how calcium signalling is regulated in early embryos?
- what is the role of calcium during gastrulation?
These are major questions as subtle deregulation of calcium signals have been linked to some of the major diseases in humans such as cardiac disease, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

This project will be done in the very stimulating environment of the Healing Foundation Centre and Developmental Biology grouping of the Faculty of Life Sciences with access to a wide-range of facilities and expertise to achieve world class science.

Funding Notes

This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website. For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website. Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.


• Webb and Miller (2003) Calcium signalling during embryonic development, Nature Reviews in Molecular and Cellular Biology 4 (7) pp539-51

• Markova and Lenne (2012) Calcium signaling in developing embryos: focus on the regulation of cell shape changes and collective movements Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology 23 pp298-307

• Wallingford et al. (2001) Calcium signaling during convergent extension in Xenopus Current Biology 11 pp 652-61

• Sivak et al. (2005) FGF signal interpretation is directed by Sprouty and Spred proteins during mesoderm formation Developmental Cell 8 pp 689-701

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