University of Trento (UNITN)

Postdoctoral fellow in Telomere and RNA fields

University of Trento (UNITN)

Trento, Italy

The laboratory of Dr Emilio Cusanelli at the Department of Cellular, Computational and Integrative Biology – CIBIO of the University of Trento is currently seeking a motivated postdoctoral fellow with expertise in molecular biology and cell biology and a strong interest in the telomere and noncoding RNA fields. The successful candidate will conduct a project aimed at investigating the function of the telomeric noncoding RNA TERRA in the activation of ALT mechanisms in human cancer cells. The project will combine live cell imaging, molecular biology and cell biology approaches and benefit from the multidisciplinary and collaborative environment present at the CIBIO Department.The research is funded by a 3+2 years AIRC (Italian Association for Cancer Research) project.

Cancer cells achieve replicative immortality by expressing the enzyme telomerase that elongates telomeres or by activating alternative telomere lengthening mechanisms, known as ALT. One of the hallmarks of ALT is increased telomere transcription and induced expression of the telomeric noncoding RNA TERRA. TERRA molecules are important regulators of telomere biology and may represent novel therapeutic targets for impairing cancer cells immortality.

Project overview
The main goals of the project are the following: i) Defining the dynamics and function of TERRA in ALT cancer cells ii) Exploiting TERRA depletion to impair ALT activation, ALT human cancer cells viability and sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapy.
The successful candidate will be responsible of developing and implementing multiple integrated experimental approaches including gene knock down approaches to deplete TERRA molecules in cells, the CRISPR/Cas9 tool to generate cancer cell clones expressing single-telomere TERRA molecules tagged with MS2 sequences for live cell imaging analyses, CHIRT-seq and transcriptomic approaches to identify TERRA target genes.

The successful candidate will be a self-motivated and multitasking scientist with an excellent attitude to work in a team and the ability to work independently at both intellectual and technical levels. The successful candidate will have extensive experience in mammalian cell cultures, cell biology and molecular biology techniques and a strong interest in the telomere and the noncoding RNA fields. The ideal candidate will have previous experience in the telomere field and familiarity with the use of gene knock down approaches and imaging techniques.

Hosting Institution
The University of Trento ( ranks first among all Italian state universities. Its biotechnology program at CIBIO is the most selective (1:10 student entry-success rate).
The CIBIO Department ( was founded in 2008 and houses 35 research groups that cover a most broad spectrum of biological research (from origin-of-life studies to immunology, virology and microbiology, aging, cell cycle regulation, genetics and genetic disease, neurobiological research, cancer biology and treatment, genomics studies, etc.). CIBIO’s research environment is international (faculty and students), and the day-to-day language is English. CIBIO’s infrastructure provides cutting-edge facilities for internal use but is also accessible to external institutions and private corporations. They include a state-of-the-art next-generation sequencing and RNA Nanopore sequencing facility, advanced imaging, high-throughput compound screening setups, proteomics, biological model systems (zebrafish, Drosophila, mice, yeast), cell technology and bioinformatics services, etc. Their availability is a unique asset for any Italian university and translates into outstanding scientific achievements, as evidenced by CIBIO’s high-quality publications.
Cusanelli’s lab ( is interested in understanding the function and regulation of TERRA in human cancer cells. To this aim, we have developed a live-cell imaging assay to visualize and study endogenous TERRA transcripts expressed from a single telomere in living human cancer cells. We aim to define the dynamics of TERRA expression and localization and characterize the functions of TERRA in human cancer cells by combining live-cell imaging with biochemical, genetics and molecular biology approaches.

The City of Trento
Trento is a beautiful town (~120,000 inhabitants) that lies near the Dolomites (UNESCO world heritage site). It is surrounded by spectacular nature (hills, mountains and many lakes, including Lago di Garda) and lies near the beautiful historic cities of Bolzano, Verona, and Venice as well as near world-famous ski resorts (Madonna del Campiglio, etc.). Trento can easily be reached by both plane (Verona Airport lies at 50 minutes by car) and train. Trento has a vibrant University city life and ranks on top of Italian cities for quality of life, the standard of living, high-quality school systems, business and job opportunities. The city and its surroundings allow for many sports activities including running, hiking, skiing, mountain biking, mountain climbing, swimming, windsurfing, sailing, canoeing, rafting, bungee jumping, paragliding, etc. The city offers many restaurants and is known for its excellent cuisine and locally produced wines and beers. For more information, please visit,

The net starting salary for this position will be of 20.000 euro/year.

Highly motivated candidates with a strong interest in the research field are encouraged to apply by sending their cv, research statement and the names of three scientists who can provide reference letters to

Apply with CV and Cover Letter

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Postdoctoral fellow in Telomere and RNA fields