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Master's thesis project available

TardigradesStress-protective genes from tardigrades

30 – 60 HEC.
Start date flexible.
Suitable backgrounds include molecular biology, biotechnology, and genomics/systems biology.
Interested? Contact Per Sunnerhagen: per.sunnerhagen@cmb.gu.se or Verena Siewers: siewers@chalmers.se


Tardigrades are famous for their resistance to extreme environmental conditions: heat, cold, high or low pressure, pH or osmolarity, radiation and desiccation. How tardigrades achieve this remarkable adaptability to stress is largely unknown.

To identify molecular mechanisms for this stress tolerance, with a view for exploitation in biotechnology, we have used a yeast platform to identify genes for stress tolerance from one tardigrade species. From tardigrades under desiccation, cDNA was prepared and cloned into a S. cerevisiae expression library. The yeast transformants were screened for increased resistance to heat, hyperosmosis, oxidative stress, and UV irradiation. We did find clones carrying tardigrade genes conferring enhanced resistance to each of these stress conditions. The genes cluster in certain cellular functions: reorganization of the cytoskeleton, energy metabolism, and proteolysis/proteostasis. This indicates that the same fundamental principles can be used for protection against distinct stress conditions, and that the genes are also able to work over long evolutionary distances.

Present project

A combination of bioinformatics and experimental approaches will be used to analyze the mechanisms for stress protection by these tardigrade genes, as well as to explore their potential for biotechnological applications using fungal microorganisms. The exact content of the project will depend on the length (30 or 60 HEC) and start date.

The genes will be examined for cross-resistance: do they confer resistance to other stresses than the one originally used to isolate them?

The sequences of the recovered tardigrade genes conferring stress resistance will be compared to homologs from other eukaryotic species, to identify tardigrade-specific differences that may explain their particular efficacy in stress protection.

The involvement of the stress response machinery of the host (yeast) cell will be investigated by expressing the tardigrade genes in yeast mutants defective in different aspects of the stress response.

Preliminary results show a significantly increased thermotolerance for S. cerevisiae expressing some of the tardigrade genes. They will also be expressed in other industrially relevant fungal species. If the effect is replicated there, this has a potential importance for production purposes in bioreactors.

Sidansvarig: Katleen Burm|Sidan uppdaterades: 2019-01-10

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