Temperature is a crucial physical parameter for all living organisms. The ability to respond adequately to a temperature rise or drop underlies the survival and fitness of a species. Although it is well understood how bacteria and eukaryotes sense and respond to temperature changes, this is enigmatic for archaeal microorganisms. This despite the fact that many archaeal species thrive in high-temperature habitats that are typified by large temperature gradients, imposing constant heat- and cold-shock stress stimuli on the cells.
This PhD project aims to characterize translational regulation in response to heat- and cold-shock stress in the thermoacidophilic archaeon Sulfolobus acidocaldarius living in volcanic hot springs and growing optimally at 75°C. Initially, a system-level approach will be adopted to map all gene regulatory events in response to temperature stress. This is followed by an integrated in silico, in vitro and in vivo approach using bioinformatics, structural probing assays and genetic experiments to search for and characterize RNA thermometers, structured RNA elements that regulate translation by undergoing temperature-dependent conformational changes.
This project will not only unravel how temperature sensing and response regulation is performed
in Sulfolobus, it will also contribute to a better understanding of archaeal translation initiation and of how riboregulation evolved during early evolution.