How do commensal bacteria protect against gut infection? (SCHULLER_F17DTP1)

University of East Anglia - School of Norwich Medical School

Start Date:  1st October 2017

No. of positions available: 

Supervisor: Dr Stephanie Schüller

Project description: The human body is populated by trillions of commensal bacteria (microbiota), the majority of which reside in the colon. Most bacteria are strictly anaerobic and do not tolerate oxygen. While the human host provides the bacteria with a nutrient-rich environment, the microbiota enhances the metabolism of polysaccharides and produces essential vitamins. In addition, the microbiota protects the host against enteric infections and has a beneficial role in tissue homeostasis and modulation of the immune system. While it is well established how foodborne pathogens interfere with intestinal function, the underlying molecular mechanisms of how the microbiota counteracts these influences remain largely unknown. This is mainly due to a lack of experimental intestinal model systems supporting the survival of anaerobic bacteria.

Here we will assess the impact of pathogen-commensal-host interactions using a Vertical Diffusion Chamber (VDC) system which we have recently developed to allow us to perform co-incubations of human intestinal epithelial cells with bacteria in an anaerobic environment. The aim of this project is to optimise the VDC culture model to support optimal growth and adhesion of gut symbionts, determine the interactions of commensals with the epithelial surface, and investigate the effect of gut commensals on enteropathogenic E. coli-induced epithelial permeability, loss of ion absorption and inflammation.

The PhD student working on this project will benefit from the stimulating and multi-disciplinary environment at the Norwich Research Park. Expert training in advanced cell culture models, anaerobic culture of gut bacteria, molecular and protein biology, and confocal/electron microscopy will be provided.

Person specification:  Minimum entry 2:1

Funding notes: Full Studentships cover a stipend (RCUK rate: £14,296pa – 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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South East England