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Investigating the role of induced histone marks in the repair of DNA damage

  • Full or part time
    Dr M Wilson
    Dr S Buonomo
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, January 05, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Genome instability is a driver of cancer and understanding how the cell repairs DNA damage is critical to combating disease. The response to DNA damage reshapes the local chromatin environment and is largely orchestrated by the deposition, removal and detection of a complex set of chromatin post-translational modifications. Nucleosome modifications act as a central signalling hub in this network to organise responses to a neighbouring damage.
While many factors are known to localise to modified damage-adjacent chromatin, how these factors bind to modified chromatin and perform their function is unclear.

Using a wide variety of techniques, principally cryogenic Electron Microscopy (cryo-EM), we aim to characterise the chromatin environment at the sites of DNA damage and understand the molecular mechanisms of deposition, reading and removal of DNA damage histone marks. Focusing on histone ubiquitylation after DNA damage this project will involve:

1) Protein expression and purification of chromatin proteins and histones
2) Chemical biology approaches to generate modified proteins
3) Mass spectrometry approaches to identify novel DNA-damage responsive chromatin interactors
4) Protein biochemistry and biophysical techniques to understand binding and enzymology of DNA damage proteins to modified nucleosome templates
5) Structural biology approaches, in particular cryo-EM, to understand the molecular mechanisms of chromatin interactions
6) Cell biology to extend our in vitro observations into the cell

This would be an ideal project to suit a passionate, motivated student interested in how molecular understanding can help explain fundamental biological processes. A background in biochemistry, structural biology or chemical biology is preferable. Applicants must have, or expecting to be awarded, at least an upper-second class degree (or equivalent qualification) in an area of biochemical sciences.

We are a newly established lab based in the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology at the University of Edinburgh. We are a highly collaborative group excited about understanding how epigenetic marks are deposited, read and removed on chromatin. The lab is currently funded by the Wellcome Trust. Sources of funding are available for both UK and non-UK students, for more information see our website and get in touch,

Funding Notes

The “Visit Website” button on this page will take you to our Online Application checklist. Please complete each step and download the checklist which will provide a list of funding options and guide you through the application process.

If you would like us to consider you for one of our scholarships you must apply by 5 January 2020 at the latest.


Wilson MD, Durocher D, Reading chromatin signatures after DNA double-strand breaks. (2017) Phil Soc Trans B, 372 20160280

Wilson MD, Benlekbir S, Fradet-Turcotte A, Sherker A, Julien JP, McEwan A, Noordermeer SM, Sicheri F, Rubinstein J, Durocher D. (2016) The structural basis of modified nucleosome recognition by 53BP1. Nature, 536 Aug 4 pg 100-103

Wilson MD, Costa A. (2017) Cryo-electron microscopy of nucleosome biology. Acta Cryst D. D73, 541-548

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 109.70

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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