PhD Position in Drosophila genetics and Alzheimer’s disease research at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

PhD Position in Drosophila genetics and Alzheimer’s disease research at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Description :
VIB Center for Biology of Disease (VIB11-KULeuven, Belgium), headed by Prof. Bart De Strooper, is a vibrant and international research centre where key issues relevant for the major human health challenges are tackled. The laboratory for Membrane Trafficking (Prof. Wim Annaert) studies the assembly and localization of γ-secretase, an enzyme complex critically involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, and consisting of the catalytic subunit Presenilin, Aph1, nicastrin and PEN-2. Its assembly requires quality control (QC) mechanisms occurring during Golgi-ER recycling. Protein QC is a system for sorting newly synthesized proteins based on whether or not they have acquired their native conformation. For multimeric complexes, QC also includes check-points for proper subunit assembly. To achieve this, the QC effectors use several strategies, among which – retention at the place of synthesis in the ER and retrieval from the post-Golgi compartments. Retrieval-to-ER 1 (Rer1) is a QC effector that is highly evolutionarily conserved. In yeast, Rer1 acts in retrieval of several ER-resident proteins and proper assembly of multimeric complex components. In multicellular Metazoans Rer1 regulates the assembly of the γ-secretase complex through its interaction with nicastrin, thereby negatively regulating complex assembly during ER-Golgi recycling (Spasic et al., J. Cell Biol., 176(5), 629-640, 2007). We are currently exploring Rer1p’s broader physiological role using a genetically tractable model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, both through genetic interaction analysis and phenotypic characterization of Rer1 null mutants and Rer1 -overexpressing flies.

Profile : We seek a talented PhD student to continue our Drosophila research and to integrate this with our cell biological strategies related to the Alzheimer’s disease research program. Candidates should have a very good knowledge of basic genetics and molecular cell biology. Collaboration with Prof. Patrik Verstreken (VIB1-KULeuven; co-promoter) ensures basic training in Drosophila genetics and physiology. Furthermore, a good mastery of the English language, communicative skills and the eagerness to work in a cross-disciplinary environment are essential for a successful selection.

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