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BBSRC NRPDTP PhD Studentship Project

Project Title

The sex factor: why males and females age differently and have different lifespans?

A collaborative project with Prof. Tracey Chapman and Prof. Matt Gage at UEA. We will investigate the sexual dimorphism in life history, focusing on the role of evolutionarily conserved molecular pathways that govern development, growth, reproduction and longevity. We will use the power C. elegans nematode system to manipulate gene expression in males and females across different stages of their life cycle.

Organisms and the Environment Theme at UEA BIO is a dynamic and supportive working environment, and the student will be working alongside several postdocs and technicians with deep expertise in evolutionary biology, biology of ageing and nematode research. The student will participate in lab meetings and journal clubs, discussing the broad spectrum of problems in contemporary evolutionary biology, especially in the fields of ageing, life history evolution, sexual selection and sexual conflict.

Please contact for further questions!

Project description

Males and females in many different species, including humans, have different longevities and rates of ageing. Despite the decades of research, we still do not know why this is the case. The leading hypothesis maintains the sexes resolve the fundamental trade-off between survival and reproduction differently. Because females produce large expensive gametes (eggs), their fitness often is limited by the amount of resources they can accumulate and, therefore, females are predicted to invest into somatic maintenance to ensure longer reproductive lifespan. On the contrary, males produce numerous cheap gametes (sperm) and are often limited only by the number of mates. Therefore, selection favours “live fast, die young” strategy in males resulting in high reproductive performance in early life followed by faster ageing relative to females. Because males and females share most of their genes, such sex-specific life-histories are likely defined by sex-specific gene expression. In this project, we will use the key model organism in genetics, Caenorhabditis elegans nematodes, to investigate how sex-specific gene expression in major molecular signalling pathways that control life-histories affects sexual maturation, mating behaviour, ageing, longevity and reproduction. You will use the power of this system to modify the targeted gene expression in young and old animals of both sexes using RNA interference and assay physiological senescence, reproductive ageing and longevity. You will test the ultimate prediction that males invest less than females in somatic maintenance when they perceive reproductive opportunities. This PhD is an opportunity to investigate one of the big questions in biology – why do we age – from the unique angle of sexual dimorphism in life-history.



Project students: We offer a range of short-term projects (8-10 weeks) on ageing in C. elegans nematodes. Topics include, but not limited to, dietary restriction effects on fitness and ageing, parental age effects on fitness and ageing, stress resistance, age-specific knockdown of gene expression using feeding RNAi approach, sexual conflict, etc.

MSc students: If you are interested in our research and you are considering doing a project in our lab, please get in touch and we can arrange a meeting and a lab tour.

Postdoctoral fellows: If your research interests are broadly aligned with ours, and you are interested in applying for a postdoctoral position via Marie Curie or Newton Fellowship schemes, or any other suitable funding scheme, please get in touch.

Feel free to contact with expressions of interest and questions!!