PhD available with OpenPlant PI Dr Nicola Patron of the Earlham Institute on design principles for synthetic gene regulation - understanding how cis-regulatory functions are encoded in plant DNA.
Plants are emerging as commercially-relevant production systems for high-value natural products. This requires suites of non-homologous, characterised regulatory elements for applications such as balancing components within a responsive circuit and preventing the build-up of toxic intermediates along a biosynthesis pathway. Plant regulatory sequences are comprised of complex arrangements of protein binding motifs and cis-regulatory elements. Both the primary DNA sequence and secondary DNA structure contribute to regulating gene-expression by recruiting proteins and dictating nucleosome architecture. This project will apply an original synthetic-biology approach to study the relationship between sequence and function utilising comparative genomic approaches to inform the design of synthetic regulatory sequences. This will enable us to understand how cis-regulatory function is encoded in specific DNA sequences. The project will focus on the identification and characterisation of cis-regulatory elements conserved across plants to inform the design of minimal synthetic elements that function across species. Comparative analysis of genome sequences will be used to inform iterative 'design-build-test-learn' cycles in which the function of libraries of designed, synthetic sequences will be analysed. The student will be trained in bioinformatics and comparative genomics analyses, synthetic biology approaches and low and high-throughput plant molecular biology and biotechnology techniques.