PhD Studentship: Exploring Control of Microbial Mineral Respiration by Metal-Dependent DNA/RNA Interactions

University of East Anglia - School of Biological Sciences

Location: Norwich

Start Date: October 2018

No. of positions available: 1

Supervisor: Primary supervisor Prof David J Richardson

Secondary supervisors: Dr Andrew Gates
                                          Dr Thomas Clarke
                                          Dr Zoe Waller

Project description:
Many microorganisms are able to flourish in soils and the sediments of lakes and oceans world-wide. These environments are depleted in oxygen and so microbes must use alternative molecules for respiration, including nitrates, sulphates and even insoluble iron and manganese mineral oxides [1].

 Shewanella oneidensis is a model bacterium for studying the process of microbial mineral respiration, where electrons from oxidation of organic molecules in the cytoplasm are transported out of the cell and into external acceptors. The molecular basis for this respiratory process has been studied and requires expression of the mtr genes [2, 3], but the regulation of core and accessory genes is poorly understood. Previous research has shown that mtr gene expression in S. oneidensis is regulated differently by Fe3+ and Mn4+, but how this control occurs is not clear.

This PhD proposal aims to uncover how the S. oneidensis mineral respiring gene cluster is controlled in response to the availability of alternative electron acceptors. In particular, whether the presence of Fe3+ or Mn4+ regulates gene expression through direct metal-cofactor-nucleic acid interactions, or indirectly via a transcriptional regulator will be determined. Specifically, the student will: (1) study gene regulation in response to insoluble and soluble Fe3+ and Mn4+ compounds in bacterial cultures by qPCR, (2) investigate the capacity of soluble metal ligands to bind candidate nucleic acid binding sites and regulatory proteins, and (3) characterise the biochemical and structural basis for regulatory interactions between metals and binding partners.

The work will contribute knowledge that will help to improve the application of mineral respiring bacteria in biotechnological applications such as bioelectricity production and bioelectrosynthesis.

Person specification:
Acceptable first degree: biological Science, biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, chemistry.

The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1. 
The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1. 

Funding notes:
This PhD studentship is funded by the Faculty of Science for 3 years.  Funding is available to EU applicants and comprises home/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of £14,777.  Overseas applicants may apply but they will be required to fund the difference between home/EU and overseas fees (in 2018/19 the difference is £14,090 but fees are subject to an annual increase).

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