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Department of Pathology


PhD Studentship:  Investigation of canonical and non-canonical transcription during coronavirus replication

- Dr Erika Bickerton (The Pirbright Institute) and Professor Ian Brierley (University of Cambridge). 

Coronavirus structural and accessory genes are transcribed via discontinuous transcription during negative strand synthesis; a process unique to the Nidovirales. Complementary transcription regulatory sequences (TRS) are in the leader (L) and body (B) of the genome, upstream of each gene. The TRS-B used by each coronavirus is thought to be conserved throughout the genome however our recent research on Gammacoronavirus infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) has identified several new sgmRNAs produced from non-canonical TRS-Bs [1,2], which result in the translation of three previously unrecognised accessory proteins, 4b, 4c and 7 [3].

We hypothesise that non-canonical transcription is a method to increase the coding capacity of the coronavirus genome and products of non-canonical transcription play important roles during coronavirus infection and disease progression. To test this hypothesis, we will study coronaviruses of several genera, that all cause respiratory disease in the natural host, to identify common mechanisms of transcription:

1: Determine the sequence of canonically and non-canonically transcribed sgmRNAs produced during coronavirus infection and identify the sites of the TRS-L and TRS-B recombination.

2: Determine the viral proteins produced during infection through ribosomal profiling. This will indicate whether any non-canonically transcribed sgmRNAs identified in objective 1 are translated, therefore potentially identifying additional previously unrecognised viral proteins.

3: Investigate the regulatory mechanisms within the coronavirus genome that impact the process of non-canonical transcription.

 Find out more about this studentship 


How to Apply:  Closing date: 12.07.21

Essential documents:

  • Application Form
  • CV
  • Two references sent directly from your referees

Please email your application to by the closing date.