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Effect of transposable element insertions on gene expression

Project Description

This is a multidisciplinary project at the interface of genetics and evolution. In recent years, evolutionary biology has benefited greatly from understanding of the mechanisms underlying adaptation, and by a quantitative understanding of the effects of mutations, giving a fuller picture of the dynamics of evolutionary change. As a result, we now know that transposable element insertions may be a critical contributor to rapid adaptation to anthropomorphic change.

The aim of this project is to identify how transposable elements alter gene regulation, which is known to play a role in rapid adaptation in insects to toxic pesticides. The project will tackle this question in two model systems: D. melanogaster and fission yeast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe. To do this, we will take advantage of genetic techniques by which lines with and without transposable element insertions can be generated on an otherwise identical genetic background, providing a carefully controlled experimental setting for this work. We will compare the expression of genes near the transposable element insertions to control lines that lack the insertion using molecular and genomic techniques.

In the primary supervisor’s laboratory, the student will advantage of a large panel of Drosophila lines generated in a BBSRC funded project to understand the role that transposable element mutations play in gene expression, working in concert with a postdoc and research technician. In a rotation in the second supervisor’s lab, the student will gain experience in a second model system, fission yeast. The yeast work will use a plasmid-borne retrotransposable element mutagenesis system and take advantage of high throughput screening robotics to measure fitness.

Both parts of the project will use modern genomic techniques to measure gene expression and identify transposable element insertion locations.

For further information see the website:

To apply

Please complete the online application form and attach a full CV and covering letter. Informal enquiries may be made to

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year BBSRC studentship under the Newcastle-Liverpool-Durham DTP. The successful applicant will receive research costs, tuition fees and stipend (£14,777 for 2018-19). The PhD will start in October 2019. Applicants should have, or be expecting to receive, a 2.1 Hons degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. EU candidates must have been resident in the UK for 3 years in order to receive full support. There are 2 stages to the application process.


T Hill, C Schlötterer and A.J. Betancourt. 2016. Hybrid dysgenesis in Drosophila simulans associated with a rapid global invasion of the P-element, PloS Genetics DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005920.

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