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PhD RNA Biology of Mobile Genetic Elements Durham University

About the Project 

Transposable elements (TEs) are mobile DNAs (often referred to as “jumping genes”) that are widespread in almost all living organisms. Among these, plant genomes are particularly rich in these mobile DNAs, for instance, in some cereal crops over 90% of their DNA consist of TEs. In normal condition, TEs are mostly inert and stay calm but they become active upon environmental challenges. Since TE mobilization can lead to disruption of critical genes of the host, they are generally regarded as dangerous and deleterious DNAs. But in fact, TE insertions can also bring about genetic diversity that drives the adaptive changes and evolution of a species. Our understanding so far on the TE control has been primarily building around the epigenetic repression of the host and the counteraction of TEs against the host suppression remains largely unknown. This PhD project is therefore aimed at dissecting the mechanism of TE mobilization and will have a particular focus on RNA biology. Specifically, RNA modifications and RNA secondary structures will be investigated in the model plants Arabidopsis and rice. 

This position is due to start on 01 October 2024, the student will join a thriving community of post graduate students at the Biosciences Department and will be embedded in the plant molecular sciences research group. Successful candidates will be provided with relevant training in essential experimental and data analysis skills in molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry and bioinformatics. 

To apply, send your CV, personal statement, and contacts of two references compiled in a single pdf file to Dr. Jungnam Cho (jungnam.cho@durham.ac.uk) by 5pm on 31 January 2024. 

Funding Notes 

This project is for UK students only. Funding for this project is available for a period of four years. The successful candidate will be supported for the tuition and stipend as equivalent to UKRI-funded PhD studentship. 


• Visualization of Synthetic Retroelement Integration Reveals Determinants of Permissivity to Retrotransposition (2023) Plant Physiology 193(2):915-918. doi:10.1093/plphys/kiad396 
• PopRice Extrachromosomal DNA Sponges ABSCISIC ACID-INSENSITIVE 5 in Rice Seed-to-Seedling Transition (2023) Plant Physiology 192(1):56-59. doi:10.1093/plphys/kiad071 
• m6A RNA Methylation Impairs Gene Expression Variability and Reproductive Thermotolerance in Arabidopsis (2023) Genome Biology 23(1):244. doi:10.1186/s13059-022-02814-8 
• Ribosome Stalling and SGS3 Phase Separation Prime the Epigenetic Silencing of Transposons (2021) Nature Plants 7(3):303-309. doi:10.1038/s41477-021-00867-4 
• Sensitive Detection of Pre-integration Intermediates of Long Terminal Repeat Retrotransposons in Crop Plants (2019) Nature Plants 5(1):26-33. doi:10.1038/s41477-018-0320-9 
• Regulation of Rice Root Development by a Retrotransposon Acting as a miRNA Sponge (2017) Elife 6:e30038. doi:10.7554/eLife.30038