Where Ideas Grow

i3S researcher awarded a PhD scholarship from the University of Oxford

Researcher Francisco Santos, from the UnIGENe group, was awarded a scholarship from the University of Oxford to carry out his doctorate at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology/Medical Sciences Division. This scholarship will finance his entire four-year project focused on studying the regulation of molecular motors responsible for the transport of various materials essential for the normal functioning of the cell. The work will be supervised by researcher Anthony Roberts and developed in collaboration with i3S, more specifically with the team led by researcher Tiago Dantas.

Specifically, explains Francisco Santos, “I will focus on dynein-2, one of the motors of the transport mechanism responsible for the construction and functioning of the cilia present on the surface of our cells. This transport mechanism is extremely important, as a failure in this process results in cell signaling and mobility defects that lead to severe developmental problems and even death during pregnancy or shortly after birth”.

Tiago Dantas, coordinator of the research team at i3S, explains that “cilia are like long antennas on the surface of the cell that capture information from the surrounding environment. Inside these antennas there are molecular motors that work like elevators that transport construction and repair materials to the top of the cilium”. According to the researcher, “one of the cilium’s molecular elevators, dynein-2, also has the important function of transporting signaling molecules captured by the cilium to the interior of the cell, as well as materials that have to be recycled or eliminated”.

These small cellular compartments called cilia are extremely versatile and depend on a complex bidirectional transport system where dynein-2 plays a key role. “Taking this into consideration, it is no surprise that failures in regulating the movement of this motor lead to serious repercussions for the sufferer, namely defects in the development of various organs, sensory impairment, infertility, among others”, adds the researcher.