The student will train at the interface of genetic engineering and fundamental biology to understand the role of maternal RNAs in early development. Variation in the diversity and levels of maternal RNAs are key to understanding evolutionary adaptation and plasticity, as well as aiding in the development of next generation gene drive systems for insect control.
Successful early embryonic development occurs as a result of a precise balance between the effects of both embryonic and maternal genomes. Very little of this process is known in key insect pests and it is of particular importance for effectively tackling serious agricultural pests such as the medfly (Ceratitis capitita). This is an extreme generalist whose larvae can thrive in over 350 different host fruits, many of which are of global economic importance.
Understanding the mechanisms and balance of maternal vs embryonic effects on development in this species is crucially important to reveal fundamental characteristics of generalist insect pests and to deliver new tools for population suppression. The project is a collaboration with the Pirbright Institute, a world-leading research centre for the development of genetic technologies. The project aims to identify and manipulate RNAs deposited in eggs by mothers in the medfly. This will reveal the fundamental role of these RNAs in the unusually wide dietary success of this species and offer significant potential to increase the efficiency of next generation genes drives through improvements to gene editing.
The student will gain cutting-edge research skills in molecular genetics, CRISPR/Cas9 technology, genomics and reproductive biology. They will train at UEA, Pirbright and Earlham Institute, and will gain key insights into the development and application of novel gene drive systems in the applied sector. They will receive excellent training and career development from the thriving Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership.