Juha Kurkela

Doctoral Student, Molecular Plant Biology (Department of Biochemistry)

Itäinen Pitkäkatu 4 C
Office: 6028
Office hours 10:00-14:00

Areas of expertise
Transcription, Molecular biology, Cyanobacteria, Photosynthesis


I'm a third-year
doctoral student in the University of Turku graduate school. My doctoral
program is molecular life sciences. I started my studies in 2010 in the
department of biology and five years after got my master’s degree. Major
subject of my studies was molecular plant biology. From there I continued
working as a doctoral student. Already since high school I have had a great
interest towards biology. During my years in the university I have deepened
that knowledge and after second year of bachelor studies I found how
fascinating photosynthesis and bacterial research is. Luckily there is an
organism where these two research areas are combined, cyanobacteria. I pursued
that thought and got a summer worker position in 2012 from "Gene
regulation in cyanobacteria" project, led by Taina Tyystjärvi. 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. 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.


Inactivation of group 2 sigma factors upregulates production of transcription and translation machineries in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp PCC 6803 (2018)
Scientific Reports
Satu Koskinen, Kaisa Hakkila, Juha Kurkela, Esa Tyystjärvi, Taina Tyystjärvi
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Acclimation to High CO2 Requires the omega Subunit of the RNA Polymerase in Synechocystis (2017)
Plant Physiology
Juha Kurkela, Kaisa Hakkila, Taras Antal, Taina Tyystjärvi
A1 Journal article – refereed)

In vivo recruitment analysis and a mutant strain without any group 2 sigma factor reveal roles of different sigma factors in cyanobacteria (2016)
Molecular Microbiology
Koskinen S, Hakkila K, Gunnelius L, Kurkela J, Wada H, Tyystjarvi T
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Roles of Group 2 Sigma Factors in Acclimation of the Cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp PCC 6803 to Nitrogen Deficiency (2016)
Plant and Cell Physiology
Antal T, Kurkela J, Parikainen M, Karlund A, Hakkila K, Tyystjarvi E, Tyystjarvi T
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Oxidative stress and photoinhibition can be separated in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 (2014)
BBA - Bioenergetics
Hakkila Kaisa, Antal Taras, Rehman Ateeg Ur, Kurkela Juha, Wada Hajime, Vass Imre, Tyystjärvi E, Tyystjärvi T
A1 Journal article – refereed)

The omega subunit of the RNA polymerase core directs transcription efficiency in cyanobacteria (2014)
Nucleic Acids Research
Liisa Gunnelius, Kaisa Hakkila, Juha Kurkela, Hajime Wad, Esa Tyystjärvi, Taina Tyystjärvi1
A1 Journal article – refereed)

The ω subunit of RNA polymerase is essential for thermal acclimation of cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 (2014)
Liisa Gunnelius, Juha Kurkela, Kaisa Hakkila, Satu Koskinen, Marjaana Parikainen, Taina Tyystjärvi
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Group 2 sigma factor mutant ΔsigCDE of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 reveals functionality of both carotenoids and flavodiiron proteins in photoprotection of Photosystem II (2013)
Plant and Cell Physiology
Kaisa Hakkila, Taras Antal, Liisa Gunnelius, Juha Kurkela, Hans C P Matthijs, Esa Tyystjärvi, Taina Tyystjärvi
A1 Journal article – refereed)

Last updated on 2019-21-07 at 02:21