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PhD Studentship: Investigating the role of GNGT2 mediated GPCR signalling in cone development

Clinical and Experimental Sciences

Location:  Southampton General Hospital
Closing Date:  Friday 30 July 2021
Reference:  1432721FC

Main Supervisor: Dr Jörn Lakowski

Other members of the supervisory team: Prof Andrew Lotery

Amount of stipend and fees:  £15,609 plus fees at UK rate only (Due to funding restrictions this position is only open to UK applicants).

Duration of the award: 36 month, full time.

Project description: 

We are aiming to recruit a highly motivated and capable PhD student to join our multidisciplinary research team working at the interface between basic and translational vision research. This Gift of Sight funded project will utilize innovative technology in the area of genome engineering in conjunction with 3D retinal organoid cultures and transcriptomics. The successful candidate will join the Vision Group, composed of both basic scientists and clinicians, providing a rich environment for exciting professional as well as personal development.     

High acuity and colour vision in humans depend on cone photoreceptors, a cell type typically lost in various forms of inherited retinal dystrophies leading to irreversible blindness. As such, they present a key target for drug as well as cell-therapy efforts aiming to preserve or restore vison, respectively. Addressing a critical need for a better understanding of the signalling pathways and molecular players, which orchestrate the genesis of this disease relevant cell type, this project will model human retinal development using human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC) derived retinal organoid cultures and investigate the role of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) mediated signalling in early cone development. We recently discovered that GNGT2, a gene encoding the γ-subunit of the cone Transducin, a complex critical for light sensing, is expressed immediately after exit from mitosis. This early expression is observed more than 3 month prior to the assembly of the phototransduction cascade, pointing to a previously unknown role in the early cone development. Using fluorescent cone photoreceptor specific reporter hPSC lines, we will characterize the transcriptional fingerprint of early cones by RNA sequencing and investigate the function of GNGT2 in cone development through CRISPR/Cas9 mediated knock-out as well as chemical blocking of GNGT2 signalling in retinal organoids. 

Please contact:  Dr Jörn Lakowski  (

Person Specification: See below

A background or strong interest in cellular and developmental biology is essential. Ideally, the candidate will already have hands-on experience in molecular biology techniques as well as good tissue culture skills. Experience with using the programming language R is desirable. The candidate will have excellent organisational, communication and problem solving skills. 

The successful candidate is likely to have the following qualifications:

  • A 1stor 2:1 degree in a relevant discipline and/or second degree with a related Masters

Administrative contact and how to apply:

Please complete the University's online application form, which you can find at

You should enter JöRN LAKOWSKI as your proposed supervisor. To support your application provide an academic CV (including contact details of two referees), official academic transcripts and a personal statement (outlining your suitability for the studentship, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date).

Informal enquiries relating to the project or candidate suitability should be directed to JöRN LAKOWSKI (

Closing date: 30.7.21

Interview date:  13.8.21

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