We are looking for a highly motivated PhD student who will join our research efforts to understand how epithelial cells become polarized, functionally specialize, and function. Cell polarity – the asymmetric distribution of components and functions within a cell along a directional axis – is a fundamental property of cells that is present across the kingdoms of life. Most cells need to distribute proteins, organelles, and functions along an axis of polarity in order to carry out their specialized functions and organize the 3D multicellular body.
The most abundant polarized cell type of the animal body is the epithelial cell. Epithelial cells need to establish functionally distinct apical, and basolateral domains to form the epithelial tissues that cover the exterior surfaces of our body and line the surfaces of our organs. Loss of epithelial polarity contributes to epithelial diseases like polycystic kidney disease and retinal dystrophies and contributes to the formation of invasive tumors.
In your studies, you will mainly use the nematode C. elegans as a model system. Despite its small number of cells, this multicellular animal develops several different epithelial tissues. The polarization and functioning of epithelial cells can be followed in a developing animal. Moreover, recent developments in inducible protein degradation and tissue-specific gene knockouts make it possible to inactivate proteins in a time- and tissue-controlled manner, and follow the effects on cell polarity, morphology, and tissue functioning over time.
Your project will involve the identification of novel regulators of intestinal epithelial polarity through protein interaction mapping approaches (proximity labelling) and genetic screens. In addition, you follow up on recent results in which we have identified candidate regulators of intestinal polarity and organization. You will investigate their mode of action, and role in intestinal functioning.
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