PhD Studentship: Discovering new natural product pathways in plants (OCONNOR_J17DTP)

University of East Anglia - School of Biological Sciences

Start Date:  1st October 2017

Supervisor: Prof. Sarah O'Connor

Project description:

Plants produce complex molecules called natural products. These biologically active molecules have important agricultural and pharmaceutical applications: for example, many natural products are used as antibiotics or anticancer agents. The overall goal of our group is to understand how plants make these molecules. Reconstitution of natural product pathways in appropriate host organisms, a “synthetic biology” approach, can allow rapid elucidation of these metabolic pathways and provide access to these compounds. This process of identifying these enzymes has been challenging for plant natural product pathways, but our group has been successful in using transcriptomic approaches to rapidly identify new plant biosynthetic enzymes.

In this project the student will identify candidate biosynthetic genes for a group of natural products called alkaloids in several species of medicinal plants. The student will use available transcriptomic data to perform these searches. The student will then perform a variety of biochemical experiments, such as expressing these genes in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana to determine the function of these enzymes. Later in the project, the student will perform more in-depth biochemical analysis to better understand how these enzymes work.

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Person specification:  We are looking for a highly motivated student with excellent background and practical scientific expertise in plant biochemistry/enzymology, plant molecular biology, natural product chemistry or a comparable field. The O’Connor group takes students from both chemistry and biology backgrounds. Previous laboratory experience is essential.

Funding notes: Full Studentships cover a stipend (RCUK rate: £14,296 pa – 2016/7), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate, and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships, which when combined will equal a full studentship. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements.

Details on eligibility for funding on the BBSRC website:

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