RNA-binding proteins in blood vessel formation

Guilherme CostaByGuilherme Costa

RNA-binding proteins in blood vessel formation

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Website gcostalab1 Queen's University of Belfast


The G.Costa lab (https://gcosta064.wixsite.com/costa-lab) is looking for a PhD student to embark on a project addressing fundamental questions in the fields of physiological and pathological blood vessel formation. Our lab is supported by major funding institutions (Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council) to study the importance of subcellular mRNA localisation and local in endothelial cells. mRNA localisation is a fundamental mechanism that helps cells gain their shape and behave in particular ways. We found that certain mRNAs are localised to the edge of endothelial cells and this process is critical for proper blood vessel formation (Costa et al., EMBO J 2020). However, how mRNAs are translated in their destination downstream of environmental cues that promote blood vessel formation is not known. The lab is based in the Wellcome Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, Queen’s University of Belfast, a research centre committed to scientific discoveries in the mechanisms of disease. The successful candidate will work in a friendly and stimulating scientific environment, and they will have access to many exciting training activities throughout the PhD training.

The G.Costa lab is seeking to recruit a highly motivated and enthusiastic student to tackle some of the most exciting questions in the fields of blood vessel formation and RNA biology. This project aims to unveil dynamic RNA-protein interactions in endothelial cells and understand their implications in angiogenesis.

The vasculature is comprised by a complex network of blood vessels responsible for the vital distribution of supplies to tissues in the body. Although the vasculature is the first organ to form, the continued changes in supply demands induce growth of the vessel network throughout life. These processes are regulated by a tight balance between intracellular and extracellular factors that ensure the generation of a functional vasculature. In particular pathological conditions, such as cancer and diabetes, the dysregulation of such mechanisms results in dysfunctional vessel formation with critical consequences for tissue health. Most new blood vessels emerge through sprouting angiogenesis, an intricate biological process that entails the coordinated migration of groups of endothelial cells branching from parental vasculature. Critical guidance cues secreted by surrounding tissues, regulate the molecular and cellular responses triggered during angiogenesis. Migratory endothelial cells present at the front of sprouting vessels are highly polarised, exhibiting a leading edge that senses the environmental signals. These cells lead the way of the growing vessel branch. Uncovering novel mechanisms controlling such processes is thus vital for the development of novel drugs targeting abnormal vessel formation. In this context, we are particularly interested in protein-RNA interactions in motile endothelial cells and how these can be critical for the correct response to signalling cues. This project will explore the role of the RNA-binding protein YB1 and how it is modulated by pro-angiogenic signals during blood vessel formation.

To achieve their goals, the successful candidate will work with state-of-the-art cell culture techniques that mimic the generation of blood vessels in vitro, in combination with advanced microscopy and molecular biology techniques to visualise mRNA localisation and translation.


Funding Information
Funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE). For UK domiciled students the value of an award includes the cost of approved tuition fees and maintenance support the 2024/25 rates are still to be confirmed (current rates for 2023/24 are Fees £4,712, Stipend £18,622). To be considered eligible you must have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the full 3-year period prior to the start of the studentship and you must be ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland on the first day of the start of the studentship.

For further information about eligibility criteria please refer to the DfE Postgraduate Studentship Terms and Conditions at https://www.economy-ni.gov.uk/publications/student-finance-postgraduate-studentships-terms-and-conditions

To apply for this job please visit www.qub.ac.uk.

About the author

Guilherme Costa

Guilherme Costa subscriber