Dr Nicola Kay Simcock

Research Interests

My current research project has been based at Newcastle University in collaboration Texas A&M and aims to develop the honeybee as a model to understand gustatory (taste) coding in insects. The honeybee offers a unique advantage over other insect models by possessing the smallest repertoire of gustatory receptor (Gr) genes uncovered to date. Understanding the function of each receptor and its specificity will aid the functional analysis of an entire insect gustatory system and how such a system translates chemical detection to the perception of taste. The project uses the ‘empty gustatory neuron’ developed in Prof H. Amrein’s lab at Texas A&M as a gain-of-function approach to assess the ligands for each honeybee Gr, individually and in combination, using calcium imaging and behavioural assays. Once honeybee Gr ligands have been identified we then hope to test these nutrients in vivoin the bee via a loss-of-function assay using RNA interference (RNAi). Subsequent alteration in responses will be measured in the honeybee mouthparts using tip recording electrophysiology. 

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