Postdoctoral fellowships in RNA biology and RNA virology

Posted on January 18,

The Garcia-Blanco laboratory in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Texas Medical Branch is looking for outstanding postdoctoral fellows for studies at the interface of RNA biology and immunology. Studies focus on two areas of high biomedical importance: (1) the regulation of alternative mRNA splicing of important immune modulators, and (2) RNA–protein interactions that impact pathogenic RNA virus infections.

Ongoing work in the laboratory focuses on the role of an alternative splicing factor, the RNA helicase DDX39B, on immunity and autoimmunity. Previous work showed that alternative splicing of the interleukin 7 receptor (IL7R) transcripts regulates levels of soluble IL7R and confers increased risk for multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system. We discovered the master regulator of IL7R splicing is the RNA helicase, DDX39B, and showed that it is a multiple sclerosis risk factor (Galarza-Muñoz et al (2017) Cell). Recently, we have shown that DDX39B controls important posttranscriptional regulatory networks in T regulatory cells and is required for their function (Hirano, Galarza-Muñoz et al., manuscript in preparation). DDX39B is one of several RNA-binding proteins with important but poorly defined functions in autoimmunity, providing important opportunities for exploration.

A second broad area of investigation in the laboratory focuses on RNA–protein interactions that impact infections caused by pathogenic RNA viruses. Our work on flaviviruses has identified human and mosquito pro- and anti-viral host factors, many of which are RNA binding proteins (RBPs) (Sessions et al (2009) Nature; Soto-Acosta et al (2018) eLife). The information gained from these studies has provided important mechanistic insights into how dengue, yellow fever, and Zika viruses replicate and how they evade immune defenses. Recently this work led to the realization that the RNA topoisomerase, TOP3B, is required for all positive-sense RNA viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 (Prasanth et al (2020) Antiviral Research). This has led to a search for TOP3B inhibitors with potential broad-spectrum antiviral activity and discovery of pro-viral TOP3B mechanisms.

The Garcia-Blanco laboratory is part of a strong community of RNA biologists and virologists in the department (https://twitter.com/bmb_utmb) (https://bmb.utmb.edu/), at the university (https://www.utmb.edu/gnl/about/about-the-gnl) and in the greater Houston area, which includes the Texas Medical Center (https://www.tmc.edu/about-tmc/).  

UTMB is situated on Galveston Island that features access to beaches, parks and a Victorian downtown area with nice restaurants and pubs. Galveston is located only 50 miles from the center of Houston, one of the largest and most diverse cities in the United States, and 25 minutes from League City a fast-growing and affordable city that has one of the best school systems in the state.

Interested applicants please send a cover letter, CV and information on three referees to Mariano A. Garcia-Blanco at [email protected].