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Investigating the role of myoinhibitory peptide (MIP) signalling in marine larval settlement and metamorphosis.

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Sciences.

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Exeter
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: BBSRC SWBio DTP funded CASE studentship available for September 2022 entry. The studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £15,609 per annum for 2022-23, on a full time basis.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 22nd October 2021
Closes: 6th December 2021
Reference: 4281

In animal nervous systems, neuropeptides are key agents of change. These peptidergic signalling molecules are used to regulate a plethora of biological processes, including reproduction, circadian cycles, behaviour, digestion and excretion.  

The process of metamorphosis, where dramatic changes in behaviour, physiology and morphology occur within a relatively short time period, is an excellent system with which to study how neuropeptide signalling systems activate or inhibit change in a biological system.  In this project, we aim to explore the neuropeptidergic regulation of larval settlement and metamorphosis in the larvae of two different marine invertebrates, the nereid polychaete Platynereis dumerilii, and the Pacific Oyster Crassostrea gigas. We will focus on a neuropeptide known to induce settlement in Platynereis, myoinhibitory peptide (MIP), which was recently found to signal through two different types of receptor, the MIP-gated ion channel (MGIC) and the MIP-activated G protein-coupled receptor (MAG). 

Through the establishment of MIP receptor mutant lines in Platynereis, we will investigate the contributions of each receptor type to the larval settlement process. To establish whether the function of MIP in larval settlement and metamorphosis is conserved among other marine invertebrates, we will investigate the expression dynamics of MIP and its receptors during larval development in the Pacific Oyster and test the effect of synthetic MIP peptide on oyster larval development, behaviour and metamorphosis. Results from this project will help to explain how and why neuropeptides signal through multiple receptor types and will increase our understanding of the evolution of neuropeptide signalling. We will also assess whether MIP signalling can be exploited in the context of sustainable aquaculture to enhance and synchronize levels of larval recruitment and growth.   

Through this PhD project, the student will gain experience in (1) marine invertebrate culture, reproduction and development, (2) genome editing using the CRISPR/Cas9 system, (3) molecular biology techniques including in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, (4) neuroethology and physiology (calcium imaging), and (5) fluorescent confocal microscopy. 

The student will also benefit from training in experimental design, data analysis, critical thinking, scientific writing and communication.   

Eligibility 

To be eligible for a fully-funded studentship, you must meet both the academic and residence criteria. 

Please refer to the regulations or Annex 1 of the Research Council Training Grant Guide to confirm that you meet the residence criteria for a fully-funded studentship.  Any further queries in relation to residency must be directed to the institution that you are applying to. 

* An enhanced stipend is available for students with a recognised veterinary degree qualification (£24,090 per annum for 2021-2022). There may also be enhanced stipends associated with projects that have a CASE partner (CASE projects are highlighted as *CASE in the project lists). 

Applicants should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a 1st or 2:1 UK Honours degree, or equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.  Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have Masters degree or significant relevant non-academic experience.   

In addition, a minimum of a grade B in A-level Maths or equivalent qualification or experience is required.   

Equivalent qualifications/experience   

  • Physics A-level (grade B and above)  
  • Undertaking units as part of your degree that have a significant mathematical component*  

* eg maths, statistics, bioinformatics.   

Applicants must highlight their Maths background within their application and upload any supporting evidence.   

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