PhD studentships on metabolic cell biology (cytoophidia and CRISPR), University of Oxford (deadline: 9th Jan 2015)

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Metabolic cell biology: CTP synthase, Cytoophidia, Cancer biology and CRISPR

Our lab has discovered that CTP synthase is compartmentalised in an enigmatic organelle, the cytoophidium (1-6). Moreover, cytoophidia are detectable in bacteria, yeast and mammals (review see 7). Compartmentation is essential for the localisation of biological processes within a cell. CTP synthase has been an attractive target for developing agents against cancer, virus and parasites. The high conservation and widespread distribution of the cytoophidium among diverse organisms and cell types indicates that this novel compartment contributes to fundamental cellular processes. Our long-term goal is to understand mechanisms of CTP compartmentalization within a cell. We will investigate how CTP synthase is assembled into the cytoophidium and how the cytoophidium is linked to cancer biology and immunity. 

More recently, our lab has developed a highly efficient CRISPR technology in Drosophila (8, 9; review see 10). We will continue to develop and apply this cutting-edge genome engineering technology to generate multiple mutants for studying the biology of cytoophidia and other projects in the lab. 

Our lab has set up platforms on multiple model systems including the fruitfly Drosophila, fission yeast S. pombe, and human cell lines. This project will address one of the following questions depending on the student’s interest. 

• To study the role of cytoophidia in cancer biology. 
• To study the connection of cytoophidia and immunity. 
• To characterize the ultrastructure and dynamics of cytoophidia. 
• To determine the principal functions of cytoophidia. 
• To search for factors regulating the biogenesis of cytoophidia. 
• To develop CRISPR genome engineering technology in Drosophila. 

Techniques and training will include CRISPR, RNAi screening, RNA-Seq, laser-scanning confocal microscopy, single-cell mutagenesis, metabolomics profiling, cellular and molecular biology, live imaging, developmental neuroscience and Drosophila and yeast genetics. 

** Please click 'Apply Online' below and follow the guidance to apply via the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions system. The deadline is 12 (midday) UK time on Friday 9th January 2015. We are unable to accept applications by email. However, please feel free to email with project-specific queries. **


Funding Notes:

MRC studentships are only available to applicants who reside (or have residency) within the UK or EU. Students from outside the EU may also be considered for the project if they can secure their own studentship funding. Project start date October 2015. Please contact Professor Ji-Long Liu ( for other funding opportunity available to both international and home students.

Candidates must have, or expect to gain, a first or strong upper second class degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline. For further details of eligibility and the University of Oxford application process please visit


1. Liu JL. (2010). Intracellular compartmentation of CTP synthase in Drosophila. Journal of Genetics and Genomics 37(5):281-96.
2. Chen K*, Zhang J*, Tastan ÖY*, Deussen ZA, Siswick MY and Liu JL. (2011). Glutamine analogs promote cytoophidium assembly in human and Drosophila cells. Journal of Genetics and Genomics 38(9):391-402 (*These authors contributed equally to this work). (cover story)
3. Azzam G and Liu JL. (2013). Only one isoform of Drosophila melanogaster CTP synthase forms the cytoophidium. PLOS Genetics 9(2): e1003256.
4. Gou KM*, Chang CC*, Shen QJ, Sung LY** and Liu JL**. (2014). CTP synthase forms cytoophidia in the cytoplasm and nucleus. Experimental Cell Research 323(1):242-253.
5. Aughey GN*, Grice SJ*, Shen QJ*, Xu Y, Chang CC, Azzam G, Wang PY, Freeman-Mills M, Pai LM, Sung LY, Yan J and Liu JL. (2014). Nucleotide synthesis is regulated by cytoophidium formation during neurodevelopment and adaptive metabolism. Biology Open 3(11):1045-56 (*These authors contributed equally to this work).
6. Zhang J, Hulme L and Liu JL. (2014). Asymmetric inheritance of cytoophidia in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Biology Open 3(11):1092-7.
7. Liu JL. (2011). The enigmatic cytoophidium: compartmentation of CTP synthase via filament formation. BioEssays 33(3):159-64. (cover story)
8. Bassett AR, Tibbit C, Ponting CP and Liu JL. (2013). Highly efficient targeted mutagenesis of Drosophila with the CRISPR/Cas9 system. Cell Reports 4(1):220-8. (Cell Reports Best of 2013) (Cell Press Nucleus “The Revolution of CRISPR/Cas9”)
9. Bassett AR*, Tibbit C, Ponting CP and Liu JL*. (2014). Mutagenesis and homologous recombination in Drosophila cell lines using CRISPR/Cas9. Biology Open 3(1):42-9.
10. Bassett AR and Liu JL. (2014). CRISPR/Cas9 and genome editing in Drosophila. Journal of Genetics and Genomics 41(1):7-19.(Cover story).

For more information please visit the Liu Lab websites

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