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Partial human genome RNAi screen to identify genes involved in brain size regulation and cancer development.


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Country eligibility
International (open to all nationalities, including the UK)
Additional supervisors
Dr Jacquelyn Bond, Professor Colin Johnson, Dr Ewan Morrison
School of Medicine
Research groups/institutes
Leeds Institute of Medical Research at St James's
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

The most common cause of autosomal recessive primary microcephaly (MCPH), a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by reduced brain size and mental retardation, is mutation in the Abnormal Spindle Microcephaly Assembly (ASPM) gene (formerly named Abnormal Spindle Microtubule Associated gene)(1). ASPM is localized at the spindle poles during mitosis. ASPM knockdown using small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) results in reorientation of the mitotic spindle/cleavage furrow and cytokinesis failure (2). ASPM is an extremely important protein as changes in cell division orientation during neurodevelopment has serious consequences on the size of the developing brain and spindle misorientation results in cancer development through induction of genomic instability, tissue disorganisation, metastasis and expansion of cancer stem cells.<br /> <br /> Reverse genetic screens using libraries of small interfering RNAs are a powerful tool in identifying multiple genes involved in developmental and disease pathways (3). To identify genes involved in brain size regulation and cancer formation two siRNA screens (human protein kinase and human ubiquitin libraries) have been performed using loss of ASPM at the spindle pole as the screen readout. The student will (i) analyse the screen results to identify genes involved in ASPM regulation and localisation, mitotic progression and division orientation and cellular cytotoxicity (ii) perform siRNA knockdown experiments to validate candidate gene hits (iii) perform molecular and cell biology studies to further characterise the nature of the hits, how they modify or interact with ASPM and what is the specific function of the interaction in relation to cell division, to identify candidate MCPH genes and identify novel cancer therapeutic targets.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<h3>Timeliness and training opportunities:</h3> <p>Cell division is one of the most fundamental cellular processes and this project aims to further our understanding of the regulation of mitosis with specific reference to neurogenesis and cancer formation. The project will provide interdisciplinary training in functional genomics approaches (comprising high-throughput screening and image analysis) followed by molecular and cell biology studies (immunofluorescence microscopy, Western blotting, Co-Immunoprecipitation studies, cloning, and specific functional assays based on the nature of the candidate hits). There will be an early emphasis on image analysis and the interpretation of large datasets, which will provide important transferable bio-analytical and bioinformatics skills.</p> <h3>References:</h3> <ul> <li>Bond <em>et al.,</em> (2002), <em>Nat Gene</em>t. 32:316-20. PMID: 12355089</li> <li>Higgins <em>et al.,</em> (2010<em>) BMC Cell Biol</em> 11:85.&nbsp; PMID: 21044324</li> <li>Wheyway<em> et al.,</em> (2015) <em>Nat Cell Biol</em>. 17:1074-1087 PMID:26167768</li> </ul>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Applications can be made at any time. To apply for this project applicants should complete a<a href=""> Faculty Application Form</a> and send this alongside a full academic CV, degree transcripts (or marks so far if still studying) and degree certificates to the Faculty Graduate School <a href=""></a></p> <p>We also require 2 academic references to support your application. Please ask your referees to send these <a href="">references</a> on your behalf, directly to&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> <p>If you have already applied for other projects using the Faculty Application Form this academic session you do not need to complete this form again. Instead you should email <a href=""></a> to inform us you would like to be considered for this project.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

A degree in biological sciences, dentistry, medicine, midwifery, nursing, psychology or a good honours degree in a subject relevant to the research topic. A Masters degree in a relevant subject may also be required in some areas of the Faculty. For entry requirements for all other research degrees we offer, please contact us.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The Faculty of Medicine and Health minimum requirements in IELTS and TOEFL tests for PhD, MSc, MPhil, MD are: &acirc;&euro;&cent; British Council IELTS - score of 6.5 overall, with no element less than 6.0 &acirc;&euro;&cent; TOEFL iBT - overall score of 92 with the listening and reading element no less than 21, writing element no less than 22 and the speaking element no less than 23.

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information please contact the Graduate School Office<br /> e: <a href=""></a>, t: +44 (0)113 343 8221.</p>