We are looking for a highly motivated prospective PhD student to undertake the project described below. We will support interested applicants as they apply for funding to undertake this work. The project is advertised within the NERC DTP at Cambridge. Further details about this funding scheme are available here:
The project may be funded from another source, depending on the schemes for which particular applicants are eligible. Please contact Rebecca Kilner (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further information, or if you would like to discuss suggestions for different projects.
PhD project: Seminal fluid proteins: a new mechanism for non-genetic inheritance?
Understanding how traits are inherited from generation to generation is key to understanding how individual variation arises, how novel adaptations arise and how quickly individuals can adapt in a changing world. Recent evidence suggests that variation in some traits can be attributed to non-genetic inheritance, but it is unclear exactly how these mechanisms work and whether their effects can persist downstream into adulthood. We will investigate these problems by focusing on the actions of seminal fluid proteins in burying beetles. Seminal fluid proteins are known to influence female reproductive physiology in other insects, but how long-lasting are their effects and can they influence characteristics of the offspring? We will answer these questions by working in collaboration with Professor Tracey Chapman at UEA (https://www.uea.ac.uk/biological-sciences/people/profile/tracey-chapman), a world expert on insect seminal proteins.
The aim of this project is to use genomic analysis to identify seminal fluid proteins in burying beetles; to use genome editing techniques (e.g. CRISPR) to analyse their effect on female physiology, and on traits expressed in offspring; and to investigate whether previous mating partners can influence traits in offspring via their seminal fluid proteins, even when those offspring sired by different males. Our study species is Nicrophorus vespilloides, which mates rampantly and promiscuously in nature. Our pilot experiments suggest that previous mating partners can affect female fecundity in this species, and thence offspring size.