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Postgraduate research project

The impact of early life stress on neuronal enhancer function

Fully funded (UK only)
Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours degree View full entry requirements
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
Closing date

About the project

This project will use a mouse model to investigate the epigenetic mechanisms through which early life stress causes vulnerability to neurological disease.

Stressful events in the postnatal period, known as Early Life Stress (ELS), are an important predictor of neuropsychological disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. While there is knowledge of how ELS alters some genes and pathways, it’s not well understood how these changes are instigated or can be manipulated. Epigenetic regulation is a key facet of environmental influence over gene expression.

Research has focused on understanding epigenetic changes at genes, but distal enhancers which loop to genes to promote their expression are a key component of gene regulation. We hypothesise that changes in enhancer activity and looping are integral in the priming of neurological sensitivity by ELS.

We’re setting up a mouse model of ELS which, when paired with adult stress, gives rise to depression-like phenotypes that are not seen after either stress alone. You’ll explore the regulatory mechanisms which influence the expression of genes that are primed by ELS. You’ll investigate how their looping, location and enhancer status is altered by ELS, and how this affects their expression upon additional adult stress.

The project will provide the framework to develop core research skills including:

  • animal handling, behavioural experiments and dissection
  • molecular and cell biology techniques
  • statistics and data management as well as excellent
  • cross-disciplinary training, including communication skills

We’re looking for a motivated student to join an exciting new research team within the area of neuroepigenetics to contribute human-relevant insight into stress mechanisms.

Our lab is part of the Southampton Neuroscience Group, which provides an outstanding environment for cutting-edge neuroscience research.