Relaxin-3/RXFP3 signalling in control of arousal and complex physiology and behaviour

Research Opportunity
PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Number of Honour Places Available
Number of Master Places Available
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Prof Andrew Gundlach
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Mathias Dutschmann
A/Prof Akhter Hossain

Summary My laboratory seeks to increase our understanding of the neurobiology of neuropeptide/G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) systems in health and disease, with the goal of identifying the physiological role of key neural networks in the brain, and developing novel therapeutics for neuropsychiatric disorders. A primary focus of current projects involving several international collaborations is the relaxin-3/RXFP3 system, and the inhibitory (GABA) projection- and inter-neurons that express the peptide and its receptor. New initiatives are targeting the unexplored relaxin/RXFP1 system in brain and its possible roles in neurovascular coupling and sensory/cognitive processing; and the role of the signalling enzyme, CaMKK2 in regulation of brain and behaviour. Projects on these topics will provide training in techniques such as neurochemical phenotyping of target neurons, cell signalling, neuropharmacology, physiology and behaviour.

Project Details

Neural arousal pathways facilitate heightened awareness, attention and cognition, and are also implicated in reward signals associated with food- and drug-seeking behaviour. Established arousal transmitter systems include serotonin neurons in the raphé nuclei, dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area, and orexin (peptide) neurons in the lateral hypothalamus. Anatomical and functional studies also suggest relaxin-3 neurons in nucleus incertus (NI) (image) and the central grey (CG) represent an arousal pathway that modulates behaviours such as feeding, attention (vigilance), motivation and exploration. Therefore, relaxin-3/RXFP3 systems represents a potential target for treating conditions such as insomnia, anorexia, obesity, drug abuse, chronic pain and depression. In a new initiative, we are also exploring the potential interaction of RXFP3 and opioid signalling in the brainstem, in relation to opioid-induced respiratory suppression. Studies so far have examined the impact of pharmacological treatments on respiratory networks, and studies are now required to determine the relative neuroanatomical distribution of the relevant RXFP3 and opioid receptor systems to assess the direct or indirect (network-based) nature of the interactions observed. Projects on this topic will provide training in techniques such as neurochemical phenotyping of neurons (image), neural tract-tracing, cell signalling detection, neuropharmacology, physiology and behaviour.

Research Opportunities

PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

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