Jodie Malcolm

The selective control of tRNA gene transcription by steroid receptors in breast cancer

About me

I completed my BSc in Biology (with a year in industry) at the University of York, graduating in 2020. Having known that my ambition for many years is to pursue a career in cancer research, my placement year at the Institute of Cancer Therapeutics provided an excellent opportunity to not only confirm this aspiration, but also open me up to the world of academia and experience first hand the life of an academic scientist. My final year modules were tailored towards further understanding the complexities of cancer, and as an added bonus, introduced me to my future PhD supervisors. In the lab, I am very passionate about the exciting and novel work I am doing on a daily basis. Outside of the lab, I enjoy all that York has to offer, especially socialising with the campus geese and ducks!

My project

The oestrogen receptor (ER) is a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily. Expressed in approximately 80% of breast cancers, the ER correlates with increased cell proliferation and tumour-promoting effects. Much is known about the role the ER plays in the regulation of RNA polymerase II gene transcription with respect to hormone-responsive breast cancer. However, little is understood about how the steroid receptor may regulate the transcription of RNA polymerase III genes. Recently, it has been shown that the activation of the ER via its ligand Estradiol results in a rapid upregulation of tRNA gene transcription, suggesting a role for the ER in priming transformed cells for the extensive biosynthesis frequently observed in breast cancer. Additionally, other steroid receptors are commonly seen to be upregulated in hormone-responsive cancers, but their significance for patient outcome remains ambiguous. Working with Prof. Bob White and Dr. William Brackenbury, my project aims to understand the mechanism behind the recruitment of steroid receptors to tRNA gene targets in response to hormone stimulation, using an established breast cancer cell line. We also seek to dissect their subsequent mode(s) of action in the regulation of tRNA gene transcription.