School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Esther Odekunle


PhD student



Project Title: Integrative physiology of vasopressin/oxytocin-type neuropeptide signalling in an echinoderm

Summary: As part of an undergraduate research project in the Elphick lab, I successfully cloned and sequenced a cDNA encoding the precursor of a novel VP/OT-type neuropeptide (“asterotocin”) and identified a VP/OT-type receptor in Asterias rubens. This PhD project will build on these preliminary findings and investigate the anatomical expression of asterotocin and the VP/OT-type receptor in A. rubens. mRNA in-situ hybridization methods and immunocytochemistry will be used, as well as the development of novel neuropeptide and receptor-specific antibodies. 

This will provide a system-wide molecular anatomical framework for functional analysis of the roles of VP/OT-type neuropeptide signaling in starfish. Recent pharmacological studies in the Elphick lab have revealed that asterotocin triggers stomach relaxation and eversion in A. rubens, indicating VP/OT-type neuropeptide signaling in feeding behaviours of starfish. These findings will be extended to a system-wide analysis of physiological and behavioural actions of asterotocin in starfish.