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PhD Position in Gene Regulation and Evolution

Thinking of doing your PhD in the Life Sciences? The PhD Programme „Gene Regulation in Evolution“ (GenEvo) is offering talented, young scientists the chance to work on cutting edge research projects. As a GenEvo PhD student, you will join a community of exceptional scientists working together on the core question of how complex and multi-layered gene regulatory systems have evolved.

Activities and responsibilities:

In the field of “Gene Regulation & Evolution”, Eva Wolf, Susanne Foitzik and Miguel Andrade offer the following PhD project:

Mechanistic insights into the evolution of circadian gene regulation

Circadian clocks enable organisms to synchronize their physiology and behavior to the 24 h environmental light-dark cycle. The ancestral circadian clock of the migratory monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) combines molecular features of the mammalian- and Drosophila circadian clock and therefore provides an interesting model system to study circadian clock evolution.
The aim of this project is to understand, how the regulation of the circadian BMAL1/CLOCK transcription factors changes in evolution to maintain the circadian (~ 24 h) period length in different species and environments. In mammals, repressive Cryptochromes (CRY) and the activating histone acetyltransferase CBP competitively bind to a transactivation domain (TAD) of BMAL1 to regulate circadian gene expression (Czarna et al, 2011/2013; Garg et al, 2019). Sequence variations in the BMAL1-TAD may therefore tune circadian clock evolution by affecting repressive BMAL1-CRY- and activating BMAL1-CBP interactions. CRY transcriptional repressor activity is further modulated by interactions with PERIOD (PER) clock proteins (Schmalen et al, 2014).

 PhD Project: Mechanistic insights into the evolution of circadian gene regulation

To investigate the rewiring of animal circadian clocks over evolutionary time scales, the PhD student will take a highly interdisciplinary and collaborative approach.
To understand the basic mechanism of the ancestral circadian clock of the monarch butterfly, the PhD student will i) perform structure-function analyses of monarch clock protein complexes, ii) analyse circadian gene expression and chromatin modifications in a monarch cell line using NGS techniques, iii) perform pulldown-mass spectrometry to identify new clock protein interaction partners.
In parallel, a broader search for species specific changes in diverse organisms will be performed, which will be inspired by our mechanistic studies. Initially, the correlation of BMAL1-TAD sequence variations with changes in repressive CRYs and their co-evolution with PER proteins will be explored using bioinformatics approaches. Interesting candidates will be experimentally validated by analysing the impact of sequence variations on protein interaction affinities, as well as on BMAL1/CLOCK repression and circadian rhythmicity. Co-evolving interaction partners will be structurally analysed by 3D modelling or X-ray crystallography.

The PhD student will apply a wide range of techniques including biochemical and biophysical protein interaction studies, X-ray crystallography, bioinformatics, recombinant protein expression, protein purification, molecular biology and functional cell-based assays. Thebioinformatics- and cell-based analyses will be supported by M. Andrade, P. Baumann, S. Foitzik and H. May-Simera within the Genevo network. Candidates with a strong interest in protein structure-function relationship, protein biochemistry and evolutionary biology and previous exposure to these research areas are encouraged to apply.

What we offer:

  • Exciting, interdisciplinary projects in a vividly international environment, with English as our working language
  • Advanced training in scientific techniques and professional skills
  • Access to state-of-the-art Core Facilities and their technical expertise
  • 14 fully funded positions with financing until the completion of your thesis
  • A lively community of 24 PhD students supported by 25 Principle Investigators
  • Collaboration with the International PhD Programme (IPP) at IMB with more than 150 PhD students from 40 different countries


Are you an ambitious, young scientist looking to push the boundaries of research while interacting with colleagues from multiple disciplines and cultures? Then joining GenEvo is your opportunity to give your scientific career a flying start!

All you need is:

  • Master or equivalent
  • Interactive personality & good command of English
  • 2 letters of reference

For more details on the projects offered and how to apply via our online form, please visit www.genevo-rtg.de/application.

The deadline for applications is 20 January 2022. Interviews will take place 04-06 April 2022.

Starting date: 1 July 2022


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