School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Cui Guan


PhD student



Project Title: Social learning across species boundaries 

Summary: Learning and memory are based on long-lasting changing strength of synaptic connections. Multiple mechanisms have been demonstrated to be instrumental in the modulation of synaptic activity. One crucial instructive mechanism involves activity dependent post-translational modifications (PTMs) of proteins in the adult mammalian brain. Post-translational modifications include protein phosphorylation, acetylation, methylation and ubiquitination to name but a few. Such modification may influence the activity of modified proteins at the synapse or their affinity for various substrates, for example. The possible role of post-translational modifications in the synaptic plasticity of mammals has been extensively studied. However, its functional significance in the synaptic activity in the learning process of social insects is poorly understood. 

My PhD research focuses on exploring the underpinnings of changing synaptic strengths in bumblebees. I aim to test the possibility that a regulation of activity of enzymes which mediate specific post-translational modifications by visual and olfactory inputs may be involved in a sequence of cascades of biochemical events leading to synaptic plasticity.