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Supervisor: Dr Helen Christian & Co-supervisor TBC

The fundamental question to be addressed would be ‘What is the role of transport systems in the regulation of the anterior pituitary gland?’ Special attention will be paid to the folliculo-stellate (FS) cells due to their intriguing morphological features typical of those found in epithelia and formation of follicles. These morphological features suggest an exchange of molecules between FS cells and extracellular fluid in the follicle. However, the precise functional role of pituitary follicles has scarcely been investigated (Ferrara et al 1987; Otto et al 1996). FS cells release several bioactive paracrine hormones (e.g. annexin 1, follistatin, IL-6, nitric oxide, basic fibroblast growth factor, leptin) that control the release of the classical pituitary hormones (prolactin, growth hormone etc.) from surrounding endocrine cells (Morris & Christian 2011). The significance of the research is that the follicles may be critical for a novel intrapituitary means of circulation for paracrine hormones and nutrient substrates required for hormone synthesis. In response to changing physiological demands, e.g. during pregnancy, lactation, weaning and puberty, the pituitary has the ability to expand and contract its cell number several fold and we predict follicle transport systems will be important for supporting these changes. Furthermore, disturbance of nutrient/paracrine signalling transport systems may underlie the pathological growth of pituitary tumours.

Funding: Applicants are expected to compete for local studentships

Contact details: Helen Christian

Applications by: 4th January 2013 https://apply.embark.com/grad/Oxford/16/

Further information

Ferrara N, Weiner R (1987) Transport epithelial characteristics of pituitary follicular cells. Am J Physiol 252:E304-312 Otto C, Dieck ST, Bauer K 1996 Dipeptide uptake by folliculostellate cells. Am J Physiol 271:C210

Morris JF, Christian HC (2010) Folliculostellate cells: paracrine communicators in the anterior pituitary. The Open Neuroendocrinology Journal, 4:77-89