Jenna Gallie

Please refer to or contact Jenna for further information on the project:
Co-Supervisor: Frederic Bertels, contact:

The evolution of bacterial tRNA primary sequences

Transfer RNAs (tRNAs) play a central role in one of the oldest biological processes on Earth; they match mRNA codons with their corresponding amino acids during translation. In order to perform this role, tRNAs have a broadly conserved secondary and tertiary structure. However, tRNAs are more variable at the level of primary sequence. The aim of this project is to investigate how, given the tight constraints of higher structure and function, tRNA primary sequences can evolve.

The project is expected to involve a combination of bioinformatics (with Frederic Bertels) and wet lab experiments (with Jenna Gallie). The bioinformatic component will consist of analysing evolutionary relationships between available bacterial tRNA sequences. In the laboratory, the student will work with Escherichia coli and/or Pseudomonas fluorescens, to dissect mutational routes between tRNAs that differ in primary sequence. This is expected to involve genetic engineering, experimental evolution, fitness assays, and mature tRNA pool sequencing (YAMAT-seq).

The ideal candidate for this position would have some experience in programming, and in microbial genetics.


References for further reading

  1. Ayan GB, Park HJ, Gallie J. 2020. The birth of a bacterial tRNA gene. eLife 9:e57947. doi:10.7554/eLife.57947
  2. Rak R, Dahan O, Pilpel Y. 2018. Repertoires of tRNAs: The couplers of genomics and proteomics. Annu. Rev. Cell Dev. Biol. 34:239–264. doi:10.1146/annurev-cellbio-100617-062754
  3. Li C, Qian W, Maclean CJ, Zhang J. 2016. The fitness landscape of a tRNA gene. Science 352:837-840. doi:10.1126/science.aae0568

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