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PhD position in Molecular Biology – Primate piRNAs

In the field of “Primate piRNA/PIWI” the IPP partner group of Dr David Rosenkranz and Prof. Hans Zischler offers the following PhD project:
Somatic function of the PIWI/piRNA system in human and non-human primate evolution
The canonical function of the PIWI/piRNA-system is generally regarded to be germline-specific and linked to a role as transcriptionally or post-transcriptionally acting suppressor of „jumping genes“ – transposable elements or TEs. piRNAs, a class of small non-coding RNAs (sncRNAs) interact and guide Argonaute effector proteins belonging to the Piwi sub-family (PIWIL1-4). The make-up and orchestration of the biogenesis of the PIWI/piRNA-system-components is subject of intense research, but so far mainly concentrates on the germline. However, metazoans without fully functional germline as well as unicellulars that diverged before the common ancestor of metazoans as well as malignant somatic cells display a PIWI/piRNA function. Therefore, the quest for a somatic function, expression of PIWI/piRNA components and its putative role in TE-suppression is a timely research project with enormous impact also on a clinically relevant “translational epigenetics”. In addition to the functional implications, it is worth to mention that the PIWI/piRNA-system, despite its profound role in maintaining genome integrity, exhibits considerable evolutionary plasticity during the divergence of humans and non-human primates, rendering the latter to more meaningful models than e.g. the mouse system.
The project will be carried out under direct supervision of Dr. D. Rosenkranz and jointly with Prof. H. Zischler. Experimental work will focus on post-mitotic, normal tissue with samples from humans and Old World and New World monkey models. Expression of the PIWI/piRNA components will be thoroughly tested and the sncRNA-trancriptomes deep-sequenced. Guide RNA make-up, putative targets and evolutionary conservation on the PIWI- as well as sncRNA-site will be determined. To this end, the prospective PhD student will employ a range of methods that are established in the smallRNA group at the Anthropology/Mainz (Dr. D. Rosenkranz, further information see: www.smallRNAgroup.uni-mainz.de) including quantitative determination of PIWI-paralogs and TE transcripts, sncRNA library preparation, NGS sequencing and sophisticated bioinformatics related to the latter also including evolutionary and comparative aspects. We have documented and strong collaborations with several IMB and biomedical research groups, thus also access to state-of-the-art genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic tools, tissue material and biomedical expertise.
We offer
•          The possibility to work on a cutting-edge project using state-of-the-art technology in a highly motivated research team
•          A stimulating, diverse and international research environment
•          Advanced training opportunities
•          A competitive stipend
Required qualifications
•           Master or Diploma
•           Motivation to solve complex biological problems
•           Excellent communication skills
Starting date: 1 September 2016 or later
Duration of stipend: 3 years, with the possibility of extension
Deadline for applications (exclusively online via web form): 1 May 2016

Contact detail

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Job profile

Working hours
Contract duration
Type of job
PhD Project
Work experience
job experience is not required
Germany (Rheinland-Pfalz)
Working place
55128 Mainz
Area of expertise
Biology & Life Sciences