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SWBio DTP PhD project: Investigating conserved long non-coding RNA functions during melanocyte development in zebrafish and human melanoma

Project Description

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP). The DTP offers an interdisciplinary research training programme delivered by a consortium comprising the Universities of Bath, Bristol and Exeter, Cardiff University and Rothamsted Research, alongside six regional associate partners: Marine Biological Association, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Swansea University, UCB Pharma, University of the West of England and SETsquared Bristol. The partnership has a strong track record in advancing knowledge through high quality research and teaching, in collaboration with industry and government. For more information about the DTP, see

Studentships are available for entry in September/October 2020.

All SWBio DTP projects will follow a structured 4-year PhD model, combining traditional project-focussed studies with a taught first year which includes directed rotation projects.

Overview of this PhD project:

The vertebrate genome expresses many thousands of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). LncRNAs can act as a new class of gene expression regulators controlling important biological processes and have been implicated in different diseases. Despite this very few lncRNAs have so far been shown to be critical for vertebrate development in vivo.

During development, neural crest cells give rise to a number of different cell types including pigment producing melanocytes. Mutations within these cells can give rise to melanoma, a highly aggressive form of skin cancer. In this project, we will use zebrafish as a model to investigate cell type specific functions of conserved human-zebrafish lncRNAs in melanocyte development in vivo. We will perform RNA-sequencing to identify lncRNAs that are expressed in zebrafish neural crest cells and compare these with our recently defined catalogue of candidate human melanoma causing lncRNAs to map orthologous transcripts. Loss of function experiments will then be performed to deplete the expression of selected conserved lncRNAs in zebrafish and determine their involvement in neural crest cell differentiation and melanocyte development. As a number of genes important for melanocyte development are dysregulated in melanoma we will also use CRISPR interference to deplete orthologous lncRNA expression in human melanoma cells and investigate their role in controlling melanoma development and progression. Rescue experiments will then identify conserved lncRNA functions.

This work will generate important insights into lncRNA mediated mechanisms of cellular growth and differentiation control during melanocyte development and will have implications for understanding the role of lncRNAs in melanoma.

Candidate requirements:

Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.

How to apply:

Applications should be submitted on the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Biosciences:

Please ensure that you quote the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section. You may apply for more than one project if you wish but you should submit a separate personal statement relevant to each one.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website:

Funding Notes

Studentships provide funding for a stipend at the standard UKRI rate (currently £15,009 per annum, 2019/20 rate), research and training costs and UK/EU tuition fees for 4 years.

UK and EU applicants who have been residing in the UK since September 2017 will be eligible for a full award; a limited number of studentships may be available to EU applicants who do not meet the residency requirement. Applicants who are classed as Overseas for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.50

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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