Coronavirus regulation of cellular antiviral responses and cross species transmission
Coronaviruses (CoV) can cross the species barrier to generate highly pathogenic viruses. Recently, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 emerged following jumps from bats, via an intermediate host into humans, while SADS-CoV jumped from bats into pigs. Despite this, there is little understanding of species transmission barriers and how CoV adapt to infect new hosts.
Start date1 October 2022
Funding sourceThe Pirbright Institute and The University of Surrey (funding 50% each)
This is a 3.5 year fully funded studentship open to UK nationals. Funding includes a minimum annual stipend of £15,609 plus a cost of living top-up allowance of £2,200 per annum. Pirbright Institute subsidised student housing will be offered.
Home rated university tuition fees will be paid. International applicants are welcome to apply and all students are eligible for the full award (stipend and home rated university tuition fees). For Home student eligibility guidelines, please refer to the UKRI Full Eligibility Criteria (Annex One) (PDF).
Coronaviruses (CoV) can cross the species barrier to generate highly pathogenic viruses. Recently, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 emerged following jumps from bats, via an intermediate host into humans, while SADS-CoV jumped from bats into pigs. Despite this, there is little understanding of species transmission barriers and how CoV adapt to infect new hosts. It is likely that barriers exist at several levels from ecological to molecular. We hypothesise that changes in viral regulation of host cell interferon and stress responses play a role in CoV cross species transmission. The type I Interferon (IFN) response is one of the first lines of cellular defence against invading pathogens and is a significant barrier to virus replication. Furthermore, the Integrated Stress Response helps cells respond to the accumulation of viral RNA and proteins by inducing a global reduction of protein synthesis and activating a stress-resolving transcriptional programme.
Bats coexist with numerous highly pathogenic viruses and display distinct innate immune responses. Differences in signalling pathways between species can impact the ability of a virus to regulate antiviral responses, inhibiting its replication in non-natural hosts and preventing cross species transmission. In this project, we will compare SADS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 with their respective related bat viruses. This will provide molecular insights into the ability of these viruses to evade cellular defences and adapt to a new host and advance our understanding of how pathogenic CoV emerge. We will:
- Compare the ability of CoV proteins to regulate IFN and stress signalling in cells from bats and the emerging host
- Characterise stress signalling in bat cells
- Characterise the role of differential regulation of cellular signalling in virus ability to replicate in cells from the emerging host.
To execute this research, the successful applicant will make use of a wide range of techniques from cell biology to molecular virology, and advanced imaging under guidance of the supervisory teams.
Supervisors: Dr Helena Maier, Prof Nicolas Locker
Related linksThe Pirbright Institute
This studentship is open to science graduates with, or who anticipate obtaining, at least a 2:1 or equivalent, in a relevant biological subject in their undergraduate degree, or a Masters degree, subject to university regulations. Other first degrees, e.g. veterinary science, will be considered. You should be looking for a challenging, interdisciplinary research training environment and have an active interest in the control of infectious diseases.
Funding is for UK students. International students are welcome to apply, however international university tuition fees will apply and these are not included in the funding. International students must therefore be able to fund the difference between “Home” and “Overseas” tuition fees themselves.
Students without English as a first language must provide evidence that they meet the English language requirement, e.g. with an IELTS score of 7.0, with no lower than 7.0 in listening/reading and no lower than 6.5 in speaking/writing
How to apply
Applications for this studentship must be made to The Pirbright Institute, not to the University of Surrey.
For details of how to apply please visit: Postgraduate studentships | The Pirbright Institute.
To apply applicants must submit: The Pirbright Institute Application Form and a CV. References must be sent directly from two referees. The application form and further details can be found on The Pirbright Institute website: https://www.pirbright.ac.uk/postgraduate-studentship-opportunities/how-apply
Read our studentship FAQs to find out more about applying and funding.
Coronavirus Cellular Biology
The Pirbright Institute is a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. We receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and work to enhance capability to contain, control and eliminate these economically and medically important diseases through highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience. The Institute employs around 350 staff, research students and visiting scientists, and is based in Pirbright, Surrey, where investment by BBSRC has resulted in a redevelopment of the site and the construction of a high level containment facility – the BBSRC National Virology Centre: The Plowright Building and a SAPO level two facility, The Jenner Building. https://www.pirbright.ac.uk
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