PhD: Mechanisms of bacterial community dynamics in oral biofilms

University of Sheffield - The Department of Clinical Dentistry

The composition of oral microbial communities within dental plaque has long been understood as key to maintenance of oral health, with disruptions contributing to health perturbation.

One key factor in the build up of oral plaque is the ability of the organisms in the microbiota to interact both with each other but also human surfaces, i.e. teeth and the mucosal secretions coating them.  While often overlooked these surfaces are coated with complex glycoprotein-rich secretions, namely saliva on the exposed tooth surfaces and gingival crevicular fluid in the case of sub-gingival surfaces.  Therefore, the ability of oral bacteria to adhere to and in some cases utilize sialloglycans, is key to colonization and in some cases nutrition of oral bacteria.  The presence of a mature biofilm is associated with periodontal disease, and a better understanding of the nutritional interactions in these microbial communities may lead to novel oral disease preventive interventions. 

The recent work of the team in Sheffield, led by Dr Stafford, has revealed the importance of glycosidase activity and the reliance of some of these harmful anaerobic bacteria on the sugars contained on the termini of human glycoprotein glycans, particularly Sialic acid.  Using a set of in vitro ‘wild’ biofilm communities and a wealth of experience and depth of resource (e.g. inhibitors, mutants, lectin reagents and glycan profiling), in combination with 16S rRNA gene microbiota analysis (with Prof William Wade, UCL, collaborator) alongside access to unique ‘health-associated’ species, we propose to examine the role of glycoprotein derived factors in these community dynamics.

We invite applications from talented, committed and enthusiastic candidates holding or expecting to hold at least a 2:1 BSc in a relevant subject to join a vibrant and forward-looking group in Sheffield.

This project is part-sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline Oral consumer healthcare (supervisors Dr John Pratten, and Dr David Bradshaw) and the University of Sheffield Healthcare Gateway and will present the opportunity to interact with and visit GSK during the course of the project.  As part of the work you would gain a broad microbiological training alongside molecular techniques such as qPCR and 16S rRNA gene microbiota sequencing.

Please apply through our online postgraduate application system. Please name your supervisor and select their department (Clinical Dentistry) through the online form.

Contact Dr Graham Stafford:

Share this PhD
  Share by Email   Print this job   More sharing options
We value your feedback on the quality of our adverts. If you have a comment to make about the overall quality of this advert, or its categorisation then please send us your feedback
Advert information

Type / Role:



Northern England