Juha Kurkela profile picture
PostDoctoral Researcher, Molecular Plant Biology


Itäinen Pitkäkatu 4 C

Areas of expertise

Molecular biology


I'm Postdoctoral researcher in Molecular Plant Biology unit in a project lead by Taina Tyystjärvi - Bioproduction in cyanobacteria. Already since high school I have had a great interest towards biology, which led me in 2010 to University of Turku in the department of biology. During my years in the university I have deepened the knowledge in biology and after second year of bachelor studies I found how fascinating photosynthesis and microbiology is. That is how I found my area of interest and pursued to work with photosynthetic prokaryotes, cyanobacteria. My scientific career started as a summer worker in molecular plant biology unit in "Gene regulation in cyanobacteria" project. In the project I learned how to do basic lab work and numerous techniques from the field of molecular biology, photosynthesis and microbiology. Later I learned to design experiments and to write scientific articles. Meanwhile I got bachelors degree and masters degree and from there I continued working as a doctoral student. I completed my doctoral studies in the doctoral programme of molecular life sciences and defended my thesis: "The biological role of omega subunit of cyanobacterial RNA polymerase" in 2020.

Being very social person, I have also been good in making contacts with other researches. Organizing things is one of my strengths i.e. making my time usage as efficient as possible. That’s why it has been possible to me to work and study simultaneously. When adding cycling, badminton and doing exercise at the local gym to the equation, I think my life is well balanced.


My main research topic is the RNA polymerase of cyanobacteria and model organism is Synechocystis sp PCC 6803 (Synechocystis). Cyanobacteria have only one type of RNA polymerase which makes all the RNA species. This RNA polymerase is a multisubunit complex consisting from two α subunits, β, β´, γ and ω subunits. Additional factor, called a σ factor, is recruited to the core complex (2αββ´γω) when transcription initiation takes place. σ factor recognizes the promoter sequence and regulates which set of genes are transcribed. There are nine different σ factors in Synechocystis and my research considers group one σ factor (SigA) and group two σ factors: SigB, SigC, SigD and SigE. SigA is responsible of the expression of household genes, whereas group two σ factors are required when acclimating to stress. In my doctoral work the gene encoding the ω subunit (rpoZ) has been disrupted from Synechocystis and the ω-less strain is used to find out the role of the ω subunit. I have found out that ω subunit is not essential for cyanobacteria, but it affects recruitment of σ factors. ω-less strain is also heat sensitive and more surprisingly sensitive towards high CO2 concentrations. Currently I’m studying novel carbon signaling pathway.


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