Virology, Evolutionary Genetics and Systems Biology Assistanship

Focal Area: Genetics and Biotechnology
Institution Name: Ministry of Science and Innovation
Terminal Degree: PhD
Start Date: 1/4/2010
Application Deadline: 1/29/2010

PhD Fellowship offer. Principal Investigator: Prof. Santiago F. Elena Group and Center: Evolutionary Systems Virology Group. Institute for Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology. Spanish National Research Council – Valencia Polytechnique University. Campus UPV CPI 8E, Ingeniero Fausto Elio s/n, 46022 Valencia, Spain: Institute Website: Group Website: This site contains valuable information about the group’s ongoing research, publications and other scientific achievements. Period: 24 months of fellowship + 24 months of contract. Abstract of the Project: One of the major threats to human and animal health as well as to agronomy is the emergence of new infectious diseases, most of which are caused by RNA viruses. RNA viruses show a remarkable evolvability owed to their large population size, short generation times and high mutation and recombination rates. Understanding the mechanisms by which a virus becomes an emerging one is thus pivotal for the rational design of antiviral therapies and control strategies. In this project we are interested in learning what are the population genetic mechanisms determining the emergence of new viruses and what changes, both in viral genome and in the plant-virus interaction, take place during the process of emergence and adaptation to the new host. We will take an experimental approach using the Tobacco etch potyvirus as model system complemented with evolutionary genetics analyses and with an in silico Systems Biology modeling approach. First, we will characterize the distribution of mutational effects and epistatic interactions among pairs of random mutations across potential hosts and test predictions of models recently proposed to this end. Second, we will perform a large-scale evolution experiment simulating the process of emergence of an RNA virus in a population of genetically heterogeneous hosts. From this experiment and the corresponding analyses, we will learn: (i) about the constraints imposed by different hosts and the specificity of adaptation, (ii) about the reproducibility of evolution at the phenotypic and molecular level and about the targets of selection in the viral genome, (iii) about the cellular components (genes and networks of interactions) to which viruses adapt and how their manipulation may result in virulence, and (iv) by comparing our transcriptomic data, and an inferred model of host interactome, with those obtained for other viruses infecting the same host, we will try to elucidate whether phylogenetically related viruses target the same components in the host interactome while unrelated viruses target widely different components. Finally, by using the new ultra-deep pyrosequencing technologies, we will obtain an unprecedented description of how virus genetic variability is generated, distributes spatially on different plant tissues and evolves within a single infected host plant. Requirements: We are seeking for a person genuinely interested in developing a scientific career in an interdisciplinary area where Virology, Evolutionary Genetics and Systems Biology merge. The candidate must be a very motivated person, with skills for working in a dynamic international group, initiative and absolute disponibility. In particular, we are interested in students holding a BSc (or equivalent) degree in Biology, Biochemistry or alike, with graduation after January 1st, 2005. An outstanding academic record is necessary. In addition, previous experience in Evolutionary Genomics, Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics will be positively valorized. Deadline for submission. The exact days for submission have not yet been published by the Ministry, but it will be likely open by mid January 2005. More information can be obtained at the Ministry of Science and Innovation website ( Potential candidates, please contact the PI as soon as possible at the e-mail address below Prof. Santiago F. Elena, PhD Evolutionary Systems Virology Group Institute de Biología Molecular y Celular de Plantas (CSIC-UPV) Campus UPV, CPI 8E, lab. 3.0.4 Ingeniero Fausto Elio s/n, 46022 Valencia, Spain Phone: +34 963 877 895 Fax: +34 963 877 859 E-mail: Web: The Santa Fe Institute 1399 Hyde Park Road Santa Fe, NM 87501 USA

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