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Regulation of gene expression in Drosophila ovarian germline stem cells

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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Prof Hilary Ashe , Prof Mark Ashe Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Drosophila germline stem cells (GSCs) are a premier model for understanding stem cell regulation. Upon division, one GSC daughter remains a stem cell, whereas the other differentiates into a cystoblast (CB). Translational repression of specific mRNAs within the GSC is important for it to maintain its fate, with translation of these mRNAs linked to differentiation in the CBs. At present, however, the identity of only a handful of the GSC repressed mRNAs is known. This project aims to identify novel repressed mRNAs within the GSC. This will involve mining existing genomics data within the lab to identify candidate mRNAs, followed by in vivo validation using cutting-edge imaging techniques. Gene editing will be used to disrupt the translation regulation in GSCs to ultimately test the effect of derepression of mRNA translation on cell fate. As a complementary approach, an RNA binding protein that we have found is important for GSC differentiation. Overall, data from this project will provide new insight into the process of mRNA regulation that is fundamental to every cell. Moreover, the data generated will serve as a paradigm for understanding how the fate of mRNAs within a cell contributes to the stem cell versus differentiation decision.

For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Funding Notes

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in biology or a related area. Candidates with experience with Drosophila or with an interest in gene expression and stem cells are encouraged to apply.

This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website ( For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (

Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.


Wilcockson, S.G. and Ashe, H.L. (2018). Drosophila ovarian germline stem cell cytocensor projections dynamically receive and attenuate BMP signalling. Preprint, bioRxiv doi: 10.1101/370486

Newton, F., Harris, R., Sutcliffe, C. and Ashe, H.L. (2015). Coordinate post-transcriptional repression of Dpp-dependent transcription factors attenuates signal range during development. Development, 142, 3362-73.

Harris, R. E., Pargett, M., Sutcliffe, C., Umulis, D. and Ashe, H. L. (2011). Brat promotes stem cell differentiation via control of a bistable switch that restricts BMP signalling. Developmental Cell 20, 72.
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