Using toxins as tools to understand sodium channel structure and function

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Supervisor – Dr Jennifer

Animals such as scorpions, spiders and cone snails secrete toxic venoms for protection against predators or for immobilising their prey. These venoms have extremely potent biological actions due to the presence of cocktails of peptides, highly evolved over millions of years to selectively interact with ion channels. Voltage-gated sodium channels (NaV) are pore-forming membrane proteins that transport sodium ions (Na+) across cell membranes. This process is essential for the generation of action potentials (electrical signals) in nerves and muscles. Humans have nine different NaV channel subtypes (NaV1.1-1.9) located on different nerves and muscles throughout the body. Despite high sequence homology (>50%) between NaV subtypes, several naturally occurring toxins have been isolated that are selective for one or more NaV subtypes, and these toxins have proved to be pivotal tools to probe NaV channel function. The focus of this project is to characterise novel venom-derived toxins and use them as tools to understand the structure and function of Nav channels expressed on pain-sensing neurons.

Preferred educational background

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant's previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

A working knowledge of basic pharmacology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of pharmacology, physiology and/or biomedical science and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of peptide synthesis is highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2023. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

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