EASTBIO: Identifying mechanisms by which neuron-oligodendrocyte interactions regulate nervous system function and dysfunction using zebrafish as model.

EASTBIO: Identifying mechanisms by which neuron-oligodendrocyte interactions regulate nervous system function and dysfunction using zebrafish as model.

Project Code: 

Elucidating how our central nervous system (CNS) is formed, maintained, and how it can dynamically remodel is one of the major challenges to understand function and dysfunction of the CNS. Although it is clear that neurons need to make the right connections to tightly control which signals are exchanged between cells, we are still far from understanding how the fine tuning of neuronal connectivity is achieved. Over the past years, it has become clear that non-neuronal cells (i.e. glia) are crucial regulators of neural network development and plasticity. One major glial cell type are oligodendrocytes and their committed precursors, which make up about 10% of all CNS cells lifelong. Oligodendrocytes have well-established roles in making myelin. However, there are many more oligodendrocyte precursors throughout the brain than differentiate to myelin forming oligodendrocytes. How this abundant cell population affects CNS form and function is not clear.

Our research group aims to understand how oligodendrocytes communicate with surrounding neurons, and in turn affect structure and function of neurons and their axons. To do this, we use zebrafish as a model organism due its rapid development of a functional nervous system, while being accessible to researchers for high-resolution optical and functional imaging in intact living animals, as well as genetic and physiological manipulations of cell and network function. Our group uses this exhaustive array of experimental approaches to elucidate the role of oligodendrocytes for CNS formation, function, and repair.

Previous work from our group has revealed novel roles of oligodendrocyte precursors in sculpting neural circuits in the visual system, and, consequently, for processing of visual information and visually guided behaviours. Recent unpublished data from RNA sequencing datasets revealed a range of candidate molecules that may mediate the effects, several of which link to neurodevelopmental disorders in humans, including autism, forms of epilepsy and mood disorders.

This PhD project aims to investigate the role of oligodendrocyte-encoded target genes with relevance to human diseases in regulating precise connectivity and synapse formation between neurons. Applied methods include using CRISPR/Cas-mediated gene editing, transgenesis, cutting-edge in vivo imaging approaches of intercellular interactions, as well as functional analysis of neural network function and animal behaviour.


Funding information and application procedures:

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) http://www.eastscotbiodtp.ac.uk/how-apply-0 . This opportunity is open to UK and international students and provides funding to cover stipend and UK level tuition fees.  The University of Edinburgh will cover the difference between home and international fees meaning that the EASTBIO DTP will offer fully-funded studentships to all appointees.  However there is a cap on the number of international students the DTP can recruit.  It is therefore important for us to know from the outset which fees status category applicants will fall under when formally applying for entry to our university.

Please refer to UKRI and Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions for full eligibility criteria.

EASTBIO Application and Reference Forms can be downloaded via   http://www.eastscotbiodtp.ac.uk/how-apply-0

Please send your completed EASTBIO Application Form along with a copy of your academic transcripts to edneuro1@ed.ac.uk by 16 December 2021

You should also ensure that two references have been send to edneuro1@ed.ac.uk by 16 December using the EASTBIO Reference Form.

Additional Project Info 
Please apply for this project via the EastBio application process, not to EdNeuro.PhD
Primary Host Research Centre 
Funding Status of this Project 
Deadline for Application 
Thursday, 16 December, 2021
Research Area(s) 
Neuronal networks