‘NEUcrest’ is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) project, funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 Programme. ITNs provide high quality and innovative research training, through trans-national mobility of PhD students.
The neural crest (NC) is an essential stem cell population of the vertebrate embryos that gives rise to various tissues in the body such as the cranial facial cartilage, peripheral nervous system and pigment cells. NEUcrest focuses on integrating academic, clinical and industrial research for a better understanding of neural crest development and neural crest related diseases called Neurocristopathies. These pathologies are a major group of congenital diseases in human, and a heavy societal concern. The NEUcrest network comprises 20 partners in academia, industry and hospitals from seven European countries, gathered in a synergistic effort to advance knowledge and outreach about these diseases.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short, non-coding RNAs around 22 nucleotides in length that inhibit gene expression by translational repression or by causing degradation of target mRNAs. Some genes associated with miRNA production are deleted in neurocristopathies (e.g. DGCR8 in DiGeorge Syndrome).
We have identified two microRNAs (miR-196a and miR-219) expressed in the early neural crest. Our preliminary studies show that knockdown of either miRNA in the model organism Xenopus tropicalis (African clawed frog) causes a loss of neural crest tissue and are therefore predicted to target genes involved in NC specification.
In the ‘NEUcrest’ project, the student will:
1. identify potential targets of miR-196a and 219,
2. validate possible targets using cell-based luciferase assays
3. knockout target sites in specific genes by CRISPR/Cas9 and determine where miR-196a and 219 act in the gene regulatory network for NC development.
The student will gain skills in molecular biology, embryology, in vivo biology and chemical biology. In addition, training for transferable science skills in outreach and industrial management, are deeply embedded in the ITN programme.
This project is awarded with a 3-year PhD scholarship through the Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions - Innovative Training Networks (ITN) Programme (No. 860635, pending Grant Agreement Signature). Applicants are eligible to apply who have not been based in the UK for more than 12 months in the last 3 years. Remuneration will be in line with the Marie Skłodowska-Curie guidelines (Early Stage Researchers, ITN); currently, for ITN positions based in the UK, this is at least €5,172 per month (Living Allowance plus Mobility Allowance). For programme, funding information and eligibility criteria please visit: https://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/other/guides_f
Please note: Following the UK’s departure from the European Union on 31 January 2020, the UK will remain a full participant in Horizon 2020 and the funding for this project will not be impacted.
More information on the supervisor for this project: https://people.uea.ac.uk/grant_wheeler
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: April 2020
Mode of study: Full-time
Studentship length: 3 years
i) Hoppler S and Wheeler GN. (2015) It's about time for neural crest. Science, 348 (6241):1316-1317
ii) Nicole J Ward, Darrell Green, Janet Higgins, Tamas Dalmay, Andrea Münsterberg, Simon Moxon and Grant N Wheeler (2018). microRNAs associated with early neural crest development in Xenopus laevis. BMC Genomics, 19(1):59
iii) Ayisha Ahmed, Nicole J. Ward, Simon Moxon, Sara Lopez-Gomollon, Camille Viaut, Matthew L. Tomlinson, Ilya Patrushev, Michael J. Gilchrist, Tamas Dalmay, Dario Dotlic, Andrea E. Münsterberg and Grant N. Wheeler (2015). A database of microRNA expression patterns in Xenopus laevis. PLoS ONE, 10(10): e0138313.