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PhD position in Molecular Biology - Neurogenetic Analysis of a Visual Working Memory in Drosophila melanogaster

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In the field of  “Neurogenetic Analysis of a Visual Working Memory in Drosophila melanogaster” the research group of Prof. Roland Strauss offers one PhD project.

Apart from simple reflexes adaptive behavior of animals is not imaginable without their ability to remember external stimuli, own actions and the consequences thereof. Insects employ different strategies during an excursion in order to find back to a nest or just their starting point. We have identified such a working memory for visual orientation in the genetic model organism Drosophila. Analysis of the brain structure mutant ellipsoid-body open (ebo) led us to the ellipsoid body in the central brain of Drosophila as the relevant structure for the orientation memory. Molecular analysis of the ebo mutant showed that the Drosophila ortholog of the transcription activator Serum Response Factor (dSRF) is essential for a functional working memory in the adult ellipsoid body. Moreover, the cGMP regulated Protein Kinase (PKG) and the S6 Kinase II (RSK2) are both essential in a common pathway in the ring neurons of the ellipsoid body. Genetic interaction studies indicate that PKG positively regulates the activity of the RSKII and sub-sequentially the transcriptional activator CREB. The overarching goal is to unravel the fundamental mechanisms of learning and in particular those of a short-lived working memory, required to establish an orientation memory from acute visual information.

The goal of this project is to extent our understanding of this memory using classical/molecular genetics, neuroanatomical methods (LSM), pharmacology, and behavior. We aim to unravel the complete signal transduction pathway in which both protein kinases act together and to define novel targets specific to short-term memories. This will include genetic and pharmacological manipulation of candidate ion channels that should encode this memory trace. In addition, the activation of IGN by PKG will be dissected utilizing IGN transgenes carrying point mutations. The PhD student will validate targets of the Protein Kinase A (PKA) and/or CREB pathway that we identified in a genetic interaction screen. This will be done by overexpression and mRNA knock-down strategies, and expression analysis of these targets in mutants affecting this working memory. We expect to find novel or alternative principles and signaling pathways as compared to those governing olfactory conditioning with its short-, middle-, and long-term memory forms.

We offer
•    The possibility to work on a cutting-edge project using state-of-the-art technology in a highly motivated research team
•    A stimulating, diverse and international research environment
•    Advanced training opportunities
•    A competitive stipend

Required qualifications
•    Master or Diploma
•    Motivation to solve complex biological problems
•    Excellent communication skills

Starting date: October 2015 or later
Duration of stipend: 3 years, with the possibility of extension
Deadline for registration (exclusively online via web form):  20 June 2015

Contact detail

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Job profile

Working hours
Contract duration
Type of job
PhD Project
Work experience
job experience is not required
Germany (Rheinland-Pfalz)
Working place
55128 Mainz
Area of expertise
Biology & Life Sciences