Professor Robert White
Chair of Biochemistry



2013 -  Chair of Biochemistry   Department of Biology, University of York
2006 - 2012 Group Leader Beatson Institute for Cancer Research 
1999 - 2012 Personal Chair University of Glasgow 
1996 - 2001 Lister Institute Jenner Research Fellow University of Glasgow  
 1995 - 1999 Lecturer University of Glasgow
1990 -1995 Postdoc University of Cambridge 
1990 PhD National Institute for Medical Research 
1986 BA University of Oxford




Key research interests
RNA polymerase III is an essential, highly specialized enzyme that transcribes DNA to make an eclectic mix of short noncoding RNAs, such as tRNA.  This transcription is highly regulated under many conditions, including cell growth, differentiation, infection and oncogenic transformation.  My research has focused on the molecular mechanisms responsible for this regulation and its functional consequences.

Two references

White, R.J. (2011) Transcription by RNA polymerase III – more complex than we thought. Nature Rev Genet. 12, 459-463.

Fairley, J. A., Mitchell, L. E., Berg, T., Kenneth, N. S., von Schubert, C., Sillje, H. H. W., Medema, R. H., Nigg, E. A. and White, R. J. (2012) Direct regulation of tRNA and 5S rRNA gene transcription by Polo-like kinase 1. Mol. Cell 45, 541-552.

I identified key regulators of RNA polymerase III transcription, including repression by the retinoblastoma tumour suppressor RB and stimulation by the proto-oncogene product c-Myc. I characterized how transcription by RNA polymerase III is regulated when mammalian cells grow, progress through the cell cycle, differentiate or respond to oncogenes. I have discovered multiple links between the transcriptional output of RNA polymerase III and cancer.

Available PhD research projects

Novel regulators of seedling growth (2015-16)

As populations increase, the need to improve crop yields is becoming increasingly urgent.  Levels of tRNA can strongly influence growth in some organisms by influencing protein synthesis, but almost nothing is currently known about how tRNA expression is connected to the growth of plants.  Our project will characterize this fundamental issue to illuminate basic principles of growth control in plant seedlings.  It will combine molecular biology and genetic approaches to characterize tRNA gene regulation in terms of transcription factors and epigenetic changes.  It will also test whether raising tRNA expression can stimulate seedling growth. 

Co directors - Ian Graham and Louise Jones



White, Professor Robert

Contact details

Prof. Robert White
Chair of Biochemistry
Department of Biology (Area 10)
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904328820