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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Zhunan (Steven) Sun

Zhunan (Steven)

PhD Student



Project Title: Using computational and experimental methods to predict and test novel neuropeptide-receptor partnerships

Summary: Neuropeptides are neuronal signalling molecules that have essential roles in regulation of diverse physiological and behavioural processes, such as feeding, digestion, reproduction, learning and memory.

The effects of neuropeptides are mediated by activation of corresponding G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). Characterisation of neuropeptides and their receptors in echinoderms (e.g. starfish) has provided important ‘missing links’ in our knowledge of the evolution of neuropeptide signalling systems. However, there are many candidate neuropeptide receptors in echinoderms for which ligands remain to be determined.

To address this issue, the aim of my project is to discover novel neuropeptide ligand-receptor binding partners in the starfish Asterias rubens. To accomplish this novel computational methods (e.g. Alphafold) will be used to predict the structure of GPCRs and identify candidate ligands for these receptors. Then predicted GPCR-neuropeptide partners will be tested experimentally using fluorescence-based Ca2+ mobilization assays.



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