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The molecular mechanisms of piRNA-guided transposon silencing

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, November 15, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The Hannon laboratory has a long-standing interest in small RNA biology. In recent years, the lab has focused on the study of the PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) in Drosophila melanogaster. The piRNA pathway is an RNA-based immune system that protects the germline of animals from uncontrolled transposon mobilisation, thus safeguarding genome integrity. Our lab has pioneered this field, being amongst the first describing the pathway, carrying out large-scale genomic screens to identify the main players and characterising their role within the pathway.

This project aims to uncover the molecular mechanisms that underlie the piRNA pathway using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model. While a rough framework of the piRNA system has been established, the precise hierarchy of the events that result in silencing is not yet fully understood. This aim will be achieved by combining biochemistry, proteomics, cell biology, genomics (RNA-seq, small RNA-seq, CLIP-seq, ChIP-seq), imaging and bioinformatics and by exploiting in vitro cell culture models as well as fly genetics. Overall, this project will lie at the interface between small RNA-mediated silencing, chromatin biology and development.

Please click on ’Visit Website’ for details on how to apply. You must submit an application on-line to be considered for this studentship.

Preferred skills/knowledge
The ideal candidate would have a relevant undergraduate degree, a keen interest in working on this project, and would be highly motivated to drive an independent research project. A research Master’s degree with six months or more of lab experience, as well as a strong background in biochemistry or cell biology would be highly desirable. The successful candidate is expected to work closely with other team members, have excellent communication skills and record keeping habits, organisational and time-management skills, and an inquisitive mind.

Funding Notes

This project is funded by a Cancer Research UK studentship that includes full funding for University and College fees and in addition, a stipend of £19,000 per annum, initially for 3 years, with funding for a further year possible as required. The study start date will be October 2020 (Michaelmas term 2020).

No nationality restrictions apply to Cancer Research UK funded studentships. Applications are invited from recent graduates or final year undergraduates who hold or expect to gain a first/upper second class degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject from any recognised university worldwide.


Czech B, et al. (2018). piRNA-Guided Genome Defense: From Biogenesis to Silencing. Annual Review of Genetics.

Munafò M, et al. (2019). Daedalus and Gasz recruit Armitage to mitochondria, bringing piRNA precursors to the biogenesis machinery. Genes & Development.

Fabry MH, et al. (2019). piRNA-guided co-transcriptional silencing coopts nuclear export factors. eLife.

Kneuss E, et al. (2019). Specialization of the Drosophila nuclear export family protein Nxf3 for piRNA precursor export. Genes & Development.

How good is research at University of Cambridge in Clinical Medicine?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 192.05

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