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Development of circadian clocks in the fetal brain and their sensitivity to maternal stress

PhD project: Development of circadian clocks in the fetal brain and their sensitivity to maternal stress

The mammalian circadian system aligns physiological functions with time of day. The system consists of principal clock located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus (SCN) that receives information about the external light/dark cycle and relays it to subordinate clocks in other brain regions and to clocks in various peripheral tissues. Stress is a lifestyle factor experienced by approximately 30% of pregnant women who report psychosocial stress in their daily lives. Despite previous extensive research on the effects of stress on the circadian system, studies on its effects on the circadian clock in the fetal SCN are sparse. The PhD project aims to determine the basic mechanisms of fetal SCN clock development and how glucocorticoids (and stress) affect immature brain clocks, with particular emphasis on the SCN. To achieve this goal, studies will employ the animal models such as laboratory rats and mice, including transgenic mouse models. A wide range of behavioral and molecular techniques used in the field of circadian clocks, including transcriptome/proteome/metabolome analyzes, real-time recording of clock gene expression in organotypic explants of brain areas and AAV transfection, will be employed.

Candidate’s profile (requirements):

The candidates should have the Master's degree or equivalent in one of the fields: physiology, neuroscience, molecular biology, biochemistry, medicine or related fields, or they should be expecting to obtain their degree this year. Candidates should be fluent in English with good writing skills. Previous experience with biostatistics, in vivo models (mouse, rat) and molecular biology techniques is considered as an advantage.

Supervisor: Prof. Alena Sumova, DSc.



Olejníková L., Polidarová L., Sumová A.: Stress affects expression of the clock gene Bmal1 in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of neonatal rats via glucocorticoid-dependent mechanism. Acta Physiol (Oxf). May;223(1):e13020, 2018. doi: 10.1111/apha.13020.
Greiner P., Houdek P., Sládek M., Sumová A.: Early rhythmicity in the fetal suprachiasmatic nuclei in response to maternal signals detected by omics approach. PLoS Biol. 2022 May 24;20(5):e3001637. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001637. eCollection 2022 May.