University of Dundee

China Scholarship Council PhD programme - Functions & Applications of a Novel Stem Cell Signalling Pathway

The School of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee, joint with the China Scholarship Council (CSC), is proud to be able to offer a scholarship programme for postgraduate research students. The scholarship covers all tuition fees and research fees and provides living expenses and one return flight ticket to successful candidates. There are up to 5 scholarships of 4 years duration available.

Project Description

The Findlay lab employs cutting-edge technologies to unravel Embryonic Stem (ES) cell signalling networks (e.g. Bustos et al, Developmental Cell 2020; Fernandez-Alonso et al, Nature Communications 2020). Several years ago, we discovered the ERK5 MAP kinase pathway as an exciting new regulator of ES cell pluripotency (Williams et al, Cell Reports 2016; Brown* Williams* et al, in preparation). ERK5 is a unique kinase, encoding both a catalytic domain and a putative transcriptional activation domain. In order to uncover functions of ERK5 in ES cells, this project will deploy global proteomic and phosphoproteomic profiling. Novel ERK5 substrates and transcriptional networks will be characterised using biochemical and ES cell biology approaches, and key signalling pathway dynamics investigated using mathematical modelling in collaboration with Dr. Philip Murray (Division of Mathematics, School of Science and Engineering, University of Dundee). A further aim is to investigate functions of ERK5 in human patient-derived iPS cell maintenance and lineage-specific differentiation to neurons, cardiomyocytes etc. The research will be undertaken at the University of Dundee within the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit (MRC-PPU), one of the world’s leading centres studying the role of cell signalling in health and disease. Students will have access to state-of-the-art tools to dissect signalling networks, and opportunity for interaction with three major Pharmaceutical companies that collaborate with the MRC-PPU via the Division of Signal Transduction Therapy. The Findlay lab is also affiliated with the Division of Cell and Developmental Biology, which comprises world experts in stem cell research. 

Recent work from the lab can be found in the following references: 

Brown HA*, Williams CAC*, Zhou H, Rios-Szwed D, Fernandez-Alonso R, Mansoor S, McMulkin L, Dieguez N, Lizcano JM, Stavridis MP and Findlay GM An ERK5-KLF2 signalling module regulates early embryonic gene expression dynamics and stem cell rejuvenation (in preparation) 

Bustos F, Segarra-Fas A, Nardocci G, Cassidy A, Antico O, Brandenburg L, Macartney T, Toth R, Hastie CJ, Gourlay R, Vargese J, Soares R, Montecino M and Findlay GM (2020) Functional diversification of SRSF protein kinase to control ubiquitin-dependent neurodevelopmental signalling. Dev Cell. Oct 10:S1534-5807(20)30757-7. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2020.09.025. Online ahead of print. 

Fernandez-Alonso R, Bustos F, Budzyk M, Kumar P, Helbig AO, Hukelmann J, Lamond AI, Lanner F, Zhou H, Petsalaki E and Findlay GM (2020) Phosphoproteomics Identifies a Bimodal EPHA2 Receptor Switch that Promotes Embryonic Stem Cell Differentiation. Nat Commun. 11(1): 1357. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-15173-4 

Williams, CAC, Fernandez-Alonso, R., Wang, J., Gray, N.S. and Findlay, G.M. (2016) Erk5 is a Key Regulator of Naïve-Primed Transition and Embryonic Stem Cell Identity. Cell Rep. 16(6):1820-8