Lecturer, Molecular Biology
Dr Scott Cummins' research is about revealing basic gaps in our understanding of the gene and protein machinery that underlie cell communication. This includes an investigation of cell migration, through a multidisciplinary analysis of tilapia primordial germ cell migration. By understanding the molecular mechanism of cell specification, migration, ligand binding and the impact of environmental stressors, we can then address major problems in sustainable aquaculture and animal conservation through the acceleration of innovative surrogate technologies. In another study, we have been investigating cell communication by neurohormones that slow down metabolism. Some animals are known to undergo the remarkable transition from active awake to extreme dormancy, called estivation, a hypometabolic state that ensures life continues even during long periods of environmental hardship. Our research is utilising this natural system to reveal estivation-specific genes and neurohormones, which could ultimately be used to aid life extension in animals.
We have also expanded our studies to include marine sponges (ARC Discovery Project), the marine pest crown-of-thorns starfish (Federal ReefRescue) and the freshwater snail Biomphalaria. In these studies we have been collaborating with researchers at The University of Queensland, Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, and QIMR to combine peptidomic and genomic analyses to uncover the role of olfactory signalling in aquatic animals.
Although olfactory communication is essential to multicellular life, there remain significant gaps in knowledge. For example, peptide signals act as hormones and neurotransmitters in humans, yet we know little about when and how they evolved. By placing these data in a comparative framework, we are able to resurrect the ancestral roles of peptide signalling in metazoans and thereby identify the major contributions of this signalling system in regulating animal multicellularity.
Investigation of pheromones in the crown-of-thorns starfish. Reef Rescue, 2014-2016
Investigating hypometabolism to reveal critical factors that aid life extension. ARC Discovery Project, 2011-2014
Decoding the rules of fate, attraction and cell migration in perciform fish. ARC Future Fellowship, 2011-2015
Origin of genomically-encoded communication in animals: deciphering the role of peptide signalling in the sea sponge Amphimedon queenslandica. ARC Discovery Project, 2013-2016
Regional nuclear magnetic resonance infrastructure network for South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales. ARC LIEF, 2013
Overcoming membrane protein research roadblocks: A Queensland facility for membrane protein production and crystallisation. ARC LIEF, 2012