PhD position (Gene Regulation & Evolution): Co-option of cilia proteins in gene regulatory processes

 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”, Helen May-Simera, Susanne Foitzik and Susanne Gerber offer the following PhD project:

Co-option of cilia proteins in gene regulatory processes

Cilia and flagella are present widely across eukaryotic lineages and evolved to serve a multitude of functions, from locomotion and chemotaxis in unicellular green algae to reception of light in animals. Although their functions vary, many proteins required to build and maintain these structures are conserved across species. More recently, however, ciliary proteins have been found to localise to other cellular compartments where they may function in non-ciliary processes. These have most likely arisen via a process of co-option. The BBS proteins (A) are a special class of ciliary trafficking proteins. The BBSome is a heterooctameric complex and serves as a cargo adaptor during ciliary trafficking, whilst the so-called chaperonin-like BBS proteins aid in the assembly of the BBSome complex itself. In addition to functions in ciliary trafficking and protein folding, some BBS proteins have recently been associated with components of gene regulatory networks and DNA damage response. Just recently BBS4 was shown to be required for nuclear transport of transcription factors.

In the first GenEvo period, we identified orthologous BBS proteins across a diverse phylogenetic spectrum (B) and bioinformatically predicted the presence of putative nuclear localization or nuclear exit signals (NES/NLS). Importantly, these seem to have evolved independently of the mode of mitosis, which may suggest an evolutionary selected active process.

 PhD Project: Co-option of cilia proteins in gene regulatory processes

The second GenEvo period addresses two main questions. Q1) Is stress-related nuclear import also a feature of BBS proteins outside of animals? Q2) What is the consequence of BBS protein re-localization to the nucleus and how do they influence gene regulatory functions in animal and non-animal cells? To address Q1 we will tag BBS proteins in cells from diverse eukaryotic lineages (Tetrahymena, Chlamydomonas, Trypanosoma, Dictyostelium) and test their nuclear localization upon various treatments. To address Q2 we will adopt two main approaches. First, a proteomic approach in which we will identify the BBS nuclear interactome via co-immunoprecipitation of tagged BBS proteins from nuclear fractions and subsequent Mass Spectrometry. Second a transcriptomic approach in which we will overexpress BBS proteins in the nucleus and look for changes in gene regulation and expression.

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

The deadline for applications is 27 January 2022. Interviews will take place 04-06 April 2022.

Starting date: 1 July 2022

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