Unravelling the role of chemokines in central control of the cardiovascular system

The brain controls the cardiovascular system via a complex network spanning a number of specialised brain structures. We are particularly interested in an area known as the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus or PVN.

While the projections from the PVN to other brain centres that control the heart and blood vessels are well documented, the neurotransmitters and signalling molecules utilised by these projections are less well known. In this project, we will determine the function of a new class of neuromodulators called chemokines. Chemokines are well known for their role in mounting an inflammatory response in the periphery but the recent discovery that chemokines might also act as a signalling molecule within the brain opens up an exciting avenue of research.

This project will investigate the role of a specific chemokine known as CCL2 and its cognate receptor CCR2 in signalling to PVN neurones that project to another vitally important cardiovascular centre called the RVLM. This project will be relatively demanding and involve using a number of different techniques including electrophysiology if time permits. The successful completion of the project will increase our understanding of some of the fundamental mechanisms underpinning central cardiovascular regulation and control.

In this project we will be asking the following questions;

  • What is the distribution pattern of CCL2 and CCR2 within PVN and how many of these cells project to the RVLM?
  • How do PVN neurones react to exogenously applied CCL2?