Cytoplasmic RNA regulation in cell motility
Motile cells are highly polarised. When cultured in vitro, they show a highly enriched belt of actin at the tip of their lamellipodial protrusions termed the leading edge. It is at this leading edge that researchers have uncovered pools of localized mRNAs encoding actin and actin-regulatory proteins, whose local translation is then required for proper cell migration. The localization and local translation of these mRNAs are regulated by RNA-binding proteins.
Despite its relevance for the cell, and its possible links with cancer progression, it is still unclear whether this type of cytoplasmic RNA regulation is relevant in vivo, in the 3D context of a living organism.
Our group uses fly embryonic hemocytes - the equivalent of mammalian macrophages - as an in vivo model system to address these questions. Embryonic hemocytes are highly motile and multitasking cells, able to respond to a number of external cues and particularly amenable to imaging.
We are looking for a self-funded PhD candidate with a strong interest in cell biology and gene expression regulation. Combining the power of fly genetics with molecular approaches, you will investigate how cytoplasmic RNA regulation impacts on cell motility and immune function, by studying conserved RNA-binding proteins and their interactions with candidate mRNAs. Briefly, you will use life imaging to fully characterise the distribution of genetically encoded GFP-tagged proteins in live hemocytes (under different physiological conditions), and then investigate how these proteins regulate the localization and/or translation of key mRNAs involved in cell movement.
You will join our dynamic and vibrant fly community at Cardiff School of Biosciences, and will also interact closely with other collaborators in the UK and abroad. We believe that the multidisciplinary nature of this project represents a fantastic training opportunity.