SLMS Academic Careers Office

Grand Challenges

17. Retroviral restriction factors that control species-specific gene regulation and stem cell fate

Supervisor Pair: Helen M Rowe and Greg Towers
Potential Student’s Home Department: Infection and Immunity

Almost half of the mammalian genome is composed of retrotransposons, which include endogenous retroviruses that have coevolved with their hosts. Many of these are species-specific and can recruit transcription factors to regulate cellular gene expression. Several zinc finger transcription factors have recently been discovered to be expressed in mouse embryonic stem cells and are thought to regulate stem cell fate through endogenous retroviral sequences. The aim of this project is to identify which sequences these factors target and cellular genes they control. This research is fundamental to stem cell biology and in the design of stem cell medicines. This is a cross-disciplinary project because it involves stem cell biology, epigenetics and virology and there will be an emphasis on cross-departmental collaboration. Additionally, a broad perspective will be brought to the project by the co-supervisors with their experience in both stem cell biology and virology.