How do coronaviruses package their genomes into viral particles?

Key information

Application close date
07 February 2023, 11:59 GMT
Hours per week
36 (full time)
Application guidance
Posted 22 December 2022

Research topics

Biochemistry & Proteomics Infectious Disease
Background texture taken from the lab imagery.

This is a summer student position supervised by Harriet Mears in David Bauer's lab. 

Introduction to the Science

Our lab studies how RNA viruses replicate in our cells. We are particularly interested in the structure of the RNA genome itself and how this regulates stages of the virus lifecycle. Our lab focusses on important human respiratory viruses, including Influenza viruses and coronaviruses.


About the Project

A critical step in the lifecycle of a virus is assembling new virus particles which can leave the host cell to infect new hosts. The virus must package up its genome, but not other RNA from the cell, into these new particles. Therefore, there must be something that the virus can use to identify its own RNA genome. In some coronaviruses, there is an RNA structure known as the “packaging signal” which is needed for efficient genome packaging. This packaging signal binds to the virus proteins which make up the viral particle. We want to understand how this process is regulated – what are the important parts of the packaging signal and the virus proteins that control this interaction?


This project will involve creating virus-like particles in cell culture, based on the seasonal common cold coronavirus OC43. You will use molecular cloning to create mutants in the packaging signal or the virus proteins to determine which parts are critical for packaging to take place. These virus-like particles will be analysed by reporter assays and western blotting, to assess the efficiency of RNA packaging and virus-like particle assembly.


About You

This project would suit a student studying biochemistry, biological or biomedical sciences with an interest in virology.



1.         Masters, P.S. (2019)

            Coronavirus genomic RNA packaging.

            Virology 537: 198-207. PubMed abstract

2.         Mears, H.V., Young, G.R., Sanderson, T., Harvey, R., Crawford, M., Snell, D.M., . . . Bauer, D.L.V. (2022)

            Preprint: Emergence of new subgenomic mRNAs in SARS-CoV-2.

            Available at: bioRxiv.