The role of zinc in the acute phase response

Applications are currently being accepted for a 3 year PhD project examining the role of zinc in the acute phase response to infection at Western Sydney University Blacktown and the Westmead Institute for Medical Research. The project will be conducted in the research group of Professor Golo Ahlenstiel and will remain open until a suitable candidate is found.

Zinc is an essential trace element and a key component of numerous transcription factors and enzymes that represent approximately 10% of the human proteome. Importantly, zinc deficiency results in a compromised immune system, as evidenced by thymic atrophy, lymphopenia and defective lymphocyte responses in animal and human studies. The project will examine the role of zinc in the acute phase immune response to viral and bacterial antigens in the liver.

Chronic liver disease is associated with increased gastrointestinal permeability, which subjects the liver to an influx of gut microbes that stimulate the hepatic immune response. Serum amyloid A proteins (SAAs) are swiftly and potently secreted from the liver following encounter with pathogenic and inflammatory stimuli. They facilitate the recruitment of immune cells to inflammatory sites and aid in the degradation of the extracellular matrix. Importantly, SAAs are significantly up-regulated in response to zinc deprivation, suggesting that they may potentiate the inflammatory response to pathogenic stimuli. This project will cutting edge primary cell culture, flow cytometry and molecular biology techniques to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the induction of SAA proteins, and the subsequent inflammatory effects on immune cells in response to zinc deprivation.

Applicants should submit their CV and a covering letter, including full contact details of two referees, to Dr Scott Read at