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EASTBIO Effect of molecular crowding on motors and microtubules

  • Full or part time
    Dr Julie Welburn
    Prof A N Hulme
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, January 05, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description


Microtubules are long polymers important for cell division, intracellular transport and polarity. Many proteins walk along microtubules and associate with their plus ends. The plus ends act as a platform for signalling and regulatory proteins. An important question is how do motors navigate a crowded microtubule and how do they function at the crowded end of microtubules.
The Welburn lab has previously shown that Kinesin-8 motors are highly processive motors that reach the ends of microtubules and deliver EB and the microtubule depolymerase MCAK to microtubule ends to regulate its length. This process is particularly important to control astral microtubule length and spindle positioning during cell division.
The student will use chemical approaches to functionally derivatise tubulins so that microtubules with obstacles can be generated. Using the unique expertise of the Hulme lab, macrocyclic compounds targeting the maytansine sub-site and selectively targeting the growing end of microtubules will also be synthesized and optimized. Computational approaches will be used to optimize the molecules. The student will first characterise the compounds biophysically with purified tubulin and test its activity on microtubule dynamics and assembly in vitro.

Using a bottom up approach, the student will then determine how molecular crowding (1) on the microtubule lattice affect motor processivity, speed and cooperativity (2) at microtubule ends affect cargo delivery and microtubule dynamics using in vitro reconstitution and biophysics.
This project will give the student opportunities to learn organic chemistry and small molecule synthesis and coupling, protein purification and isolation, in vitro reconstitution approaches using microtubules, single molecule microscopy techniques to image motors and automated image analysis. The development of compounds that target the maytansine sub-site will also represent the development of new tools as plus end markers in systems difficult to modify genetically or transfect.

Development Opportunities
This project enables a motivated Ph.D. student to apply chemistry, cell biology, biochemistry and in vitro reconstitution assays to investigate the molecular properties of microtubules and develop new tools for study of the cytoskeleton. These results will have strong implications for our understanding of the synthesis of macrocyclic drugs, cytoskeleton biology and chromosome segregation.

Funding Notes

The “Visit Website” button will take you to our Online Application checklist. Complete each step and download the checklist which will provide a list of funding options and guide you through the application process. Follow the instructions on the EASTBIO website (you will be directed here from our application checklist), ensuring you upload an EASTBIO application form and transcripts to your application, and ticking the box to request references. Your referees should upload their references using the EASTBIO reference form, in time for the 5th January deadline so please give them plenty of time to do this by applying early.

How good is research at University of Edinburgh in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 109.70

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