PhD Opportunity

Defining the role of de novo DNA methylation in the regulation of female fertility

University of St Andrews, School of Medicine, St Andrews, United Kingdom

Applications accepted until opportunity filled

Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Ovulation disorders are a leading cause of female infertility, present in ~25% of couples who have difficulty conceiving. A women’s fertility is dependent on effectively timing ovulation within a highly-regulated ovarian cycle. A fundamental feature of the ovarian cycle is the synchronization of circadian rhythms driven by a region of the brain called the hypothalamus, in coordination with hormone feedback from the ovaries. It is now becoming clear that DNA modifications (epigenetics) are reversible and exhibit dynamic patterns in the hypothalamus. Our previous work suggests that rhythmic epigenetic changes drive the expression of reproductive hormones in the brain to regulate ovarian cycle plasticity and fertility. However, the specific brain substrates and mechanisms that underlie this control remains poorly understood.

This project aims to bridge a fundamental gap in our knowledge to link epigenetic modifications, circadian timing and the control of female fertility. Using neuroanatomical examination, analysis of gene expression, epigenome sequencing, bioinformatics, physiologic interrogations, and studies of in vivo functional outcomes, the student will identify the epigenetic signals and brain substrates regulating the ovarian cycle. The data generated from this studentship will revolutionise our understanding of non-hormonal; molecular-driven control of reproduction.

The student will gain experience in a range of advanced laboratory techniques that will include sophisticated physiological and whole animal experimentation. Training will be further enhanced by participation in GRADskills, an award-winning skills development programme for researchers. The student will work primarily in Dr Tello’s laboratory, situated in the state-of-the-art Medical and Biological Sciences Building in St Andrews. Dr Tello’s research interfaces cellular biology, pharmacology, and reproductive physiology with the goal of understanding and treating fertility disorders emanating from the brain and pituitary. Dr Stevenson (IBAHCM, University of Glasgow) will be the second supervisor on this project. He will provide specialist knowledge on DNA methylation and assist the student in identifying which gene programs are influenced by changing epigenetic signals.

For further details on the project and informal enquiries please contact Dr Javier Tello on jt65@st-andrews.ac.uk.

A full list of research publications and an overview of the group’s research are available via the University of St Andrews’ School of Medicine website at http://medicine.st-andrews.ac.uk/

Funding Notes

This is a 3 year funded PhD studentships comprising of Home/EU tuition fees and stipend at current research council rates.