PhD Position - Unraveling the role of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases in the etiology of Charcot- Marie-Tooth neuropathies

WorkplaceAntwerpen, Flemish Region, Belgium


PhD Position - Unraveling the role of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases in the etiology of Charcot- Marie-Tooth neuropathies

Department : Department of Biomedical Sciences
Regime : Full-time

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PhD Position – Unraveling the role of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases in the etiology of Charcot- Marie-Tooth neuropathies


We are an international team of researchers belonging to the Jordanova lab at the VIB- UAntwerp Center for Molecular Neurology (, looking for an enthusiastic colleague who wants to perform his/her PhD study on unraveling the molecular mechanisms leading to Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy, the most common genetic disorder of the peripheral nervous system.

Our pioneering studies demonstrated that aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRS) play a critical role in the degeneration of peripheral nerves. We identified that heterozygous mutations in the tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase (YARS) cause a subtype of CMT disease (Jordanova et al., Nat Genetics 2006). Together with 5 other tRNA synthetases, this family of enzymes represents the major protein cluster associated with CMT disease to date. Under normal circumstances, aaRS catalyze the charging of tRNAs with their cognate amino acids in the first step of protein biosynthesis. However, our findings demonstrated that lack of aminoacylation activity is not a prerequisite for disease to occur (Storkebaum et al, PNAS 2009). Rather, the CMT mutations lead to a gain of neurotoxic function and interfere with activities of these enzymes beyond protein translation. In a recent study, we established that YARS acts as a transcriptional regulator in the nucleus and the CMT-causing mutations impair this ex-translational function (Bervoets et al., Nature Communications 2019). Still, the exact mechanism leading to neurodegeneration remains elusive, and it is not clear whether it is shared between all CMT- associated synthetases. In the advertised project, the PhD candidate will combine genetic, transcriptomics, biochemical and cell biological approaches in Drosophila and cellular models, and iPSC-derived patient’s motoneurons, in order to gain insights into the intricate molecular mechanisms leading to aaRS-associated neurodegeneration

The successful candidate will join an ongoing project and will be embedded in a multi- disciplinary team of wet lab scientists and clinical experts. As part of the VIB-UAntwerp Center for Molecular Neurology (?" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"> and VIB (?" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">, the PhD candidate will benefit from established collaborations and access to centralized facilities with expertise in genomics, functional genomics and cell biology, proteomics, microscopy, structural biology, technology development, and bioinformatics. VIB provides a highly interactive environment and ample training opportunities for its researchers. In addition, the VIB-UAntwerp Center for Molecular Neurology is located in the city of Antwerp, the capital of Flanders, offering a culturally and historically rich and ethnically diverse environment.


Predoctoral candidates are expected to have:

Master’s degree in molecular biology, cell biology, biochemistry or biomedicine awarded from a University in the European Economic Area, Switzerland or UK, and obtained no earlier than 2018;

Experience in working with Drosophila or with (iPSC) cell cultures would be an advantage;

Want to apply?

You can apply for this vacancy through the University of Antwerp’s online job application platform up to and including December 31 st , 2020 (by midnight Brussels time). Click on the 'Apply' button, complete the online application form and be sure to include the following attachments: detailed CV containing list of publications (if any), a motivation letter describing research interests and contact details of 2 referees.

The selection committee will review all of the applications as soon as possible after the application deadline. As soon as a decision has been made, we will inform you about the next steps in the selection procedure.

If you have any questions about the online application form, please check the frequently asked questions or send an email to jobs If you have any questions about the job itself, please contact albena.jordanova

The University of Antwerp received the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award for its HR policy. We are a sustainable, family-friendly organisation which invests in its employees’ growth. We encourage diversity and attach great importance to an inclusive working environment and equal opportunities, regardless of gender identity, disability, race, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age. We encourage people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse characteristics to apply.


In your application, please refer to and reference JobID 4044.

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