PhD - Characterisation of the immune pathways that stimulate autoimmunity caused by ADAR1 deficiency

Ghent VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research

22 May 2018


VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research

Peter Vandenabeele Lab



Job description 

Nucleic acids are potent triggers of immune responses. This is particularly important in the context of virus infection. The presence of virus-derived RNA or DNA molecules activates nucleic acid sensors inside the host cell, which stimulates protective antiviral immune responses. Healthy cells are packed with endogenous nucleic acids that maintain cellular function. Unwanted detection of these molecules can provoke harmful immune responses. Therefore, regulatory mechanisms must be in place to ensure discrimination between nucleic acids that are a sign of infection and ‘self’ nucleic acids. Indeed, dysregulation of nucleic acid sensing pathways that protect us from virus infection are also linked to the progression of autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Loss-of-function mutations in ADAR, the gene encoding for the RNA editing enzyme ADAR1, cause Aicardi-Goutières Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder characterised by childhood-onset encephalopathy. At the molecular level, ADAR1 converts adenosine bases into inosine in base paired RNA leading to destabilisation of endogenous double-stranded RNA. When ADAR1 is not present, double-stranded RNA is believed to accumulate inside cells, leading to unwanted activation of antiviral immune pathways. The goal of this PhD project is to identify the RNA editing substrates of ADAR1 and delineate the nucleic acid sensors that contribute to inflammatory disease in the absence of ADAR1 activity.

During your PhD you will obtain strong skills in molecular cell biology, RNA-protein interaction techniques, RNA sequencing and in vivo mouse models of autoinflammation. You will be working in the new research team led by Dr. Jonathan Maelfait which focuses on nucleic acid sensing in antiviral immunity. The team is embedded in the VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research in laboratory of Prof. Peter Vandenabeele, which consists of a group of 35 enthusiastic researchers studying cell death and inflammation.


  • You have recently obtained or will soon be obtaining a Master degree in a core field of molecular life sciences (biochemistry, biomedical sciences, biotechnology, bio-engineering, …), with very good study results.
  • Candidates are expected to apply for external PhD fellowships and need to be eligible for at least those fellowships obtainable from the Fund for Scientific Research-Flanders (FWO), except if they come with their own fellowships.
    English is used in all VIB laboratories for scientific communication. Therefore, candidates must have an excellent command of English.
  • You are a team player with good communication skills
  • You are able to work independently in an accurate manner.
  • You are motivated, dynamic and you report carefully.

We offer

  • The candidate will have access to state-of-the-art tools and facilities, a rich training environment and the possibility to collaborate with many other groups within an excellence-based research institute.
  • A working environment where quality work, trust, collaboration and commitment are essential.
  • A stimulating and supportive international research environment.
  • An excellent training program that allow further development of technical, soft and informatics skills.

How to apply? 

Please send us your CV, transcripts of study, a 500 word (max.) personal statement and contact info of two references. Please compile these documents in one PDF document and submit your online application before August 1, 2018.