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Identification and characterisation of protein depalmitoylases

Project Description

S-acylation (palmitoylation) is an essential post-translational modification (PTM) involving the reversible attachment of fatty acids, such as palmitic acid, onto the cysteine residues of proteins. This PTM regulates the trafficking, localisation, stability and activity of diverse proteins, and defects in this process are linked to major human disorders, including cancer, diabetes and several neurological disorders (Huntington’s Disease, Intellectual Disability and Schizophrenia).

S-acylation is regulated by the opposing actions of “zDHHC” S-acyltransferases and acyl protein thioesterases (APTs; also known as depalmitoylases) belonging to the metabolic serine hydrolase family. Despite the importance of this PTM, questions concerning the identification of the full complement of cellular APTs, how they selectively recognise their substrate proteins, and how APTs are regulated, remain.

This interdisciplinary project will employ a range of established experimental approaches (including cell culture; biochemistry; and cell, molecular and chemical biological techniques) to identify and characterise at the molecular level APTs, with the ultimate aim of identifying new drug targets for various disorders. This work will answer fundamental questions on how APTs regulate S-acylation pathways to further our understanding of how this process is disrupted in human disease. This research fits within the research theme of Health and Mechanisms of Disease within CSELS.


• The Centre has a vibrant post graduate student community and has accreditation from the Royal Society of Biology (RSB) for the training it gives to its science PhD students.
• You will benefit from access to a world-class, Olympic-grade fitness and sports science facilities and life sciences laboratory environment with industry standard research and teaching facilities. You will become a part of a multi-professional team of renowned academics, researchers and clinicians.
• The new Science and Health Building is home to the first education-based Super laboratory (Lab+) for biomedical, pharmacological and analytical sciences.

Training and Development

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry criteria for applicants to PhD

• A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.
the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years
• a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

For further details see:

• knowledge and/or experience of cell culture, cell imaging and molecular, cell and/or chemical biology techniques would be advantageous.
• Candidates must have some experience in experimental work and of working in a laboratory. It is desirable that candidates can evidence their commitment to research in the form of publications of some kind (for example journal or conference papers).
• Candidates should have some knowledge of statistics and data analysis.

How to apply

To find out more about the project please contact Dr Jennifer Greaves Director of Studies or Mark Wheatley Professor of Bio-chemical Pharmacology

To apply online please visit:

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

Enquiries may be addressed to:
Dr Jennifer Greaves Director of Studies
or Mark Wheatley Professor of Bio-chemical Pharmacology

Interview dates: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2019

Duration of study: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Funding Notes

Fully funded to UK/EU fee equivalence plus stipend
(please note that eligibility is restricted to UK/EU graduates only)

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