BBSRC MRes/PhD Studentship Understanding How the Mucosal Layer is a Microbial Niche Within the Gut Microbiota

Reference Code: CB101


Name of the Supervisors
Dr D Bolam, Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences
Professor R Hirt, Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences

This studentship is sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) as part of the Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP).

Duration of the Award
Four years (MRes Biosciences followed by a three-year PhD).

Project Description
Our guts contain a vast community of microbes known as the microbiota that play an important role in maintaining normal health, while deviations from gut microbial balance has repeatedly been implicated in a range of serious disease states, from cancer to obesity.

While most of the biomass of the microbiota is present in the gut lumen, a subset of this community is known to reside in the upper mucosal layer that protects the underlying epithelia from environmental insults. The close proximity of the mucosal microbiota to host cells means that these organisms exert a disproportionate effect on colonic health, e.g. in disease states when normal homeostasis breaks down and mucosal microbes contribute to the destruction of this protective barrier. Despite the importance of this process to human health, very little is known about the molecular basis of mucolysis by the microbiota.

In this project we will exploit recent exciting data from our lab that identifies the putative mucin binding and degrading apparatus of several prominent members of the normal gut microbiota that have been shown to be highly adapted to the mucosal niche. The student will utilise a range of biochemical, structural, genetic, cell biology and bioinformatics techniques to characterise the key mucolytic enzymes and mucin-binding proteins from these bacteria and their role in mucin processing and adhesion. The data generated will provide significant insight into how the gut mucosa is a microbial niche and underpin future studies into dietary strategies designed to return imbalanced, disease-related, microbiota to a healthy state.

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Value of the Award and Eligibility
Depending on how you meet the BBSRC’s eligibility criteria, you may be entitled to a full or a partial award. A full award covers tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and an annual stipend of £13,726 (2013/14). A partial award covers fees at the UK/EU rate only.

Person Specification
Candidates should have or expect to achieve a first-class or upper-second-class Honours degree in a relevant bioscience subject.

How to Apply
You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application form selecting ‘Master of Research/Doctor of Philosophy (Medical Sciences) – Cell and Molecular Biosciences’ as the programme of study. Once you have selected the programme, please insert the studentship/partnership reference number CB101. Only mandatory fields need to be completed (no personal statement required) but you must attach a copy of your CV and a covering letter, quoting the title of the studentship and reference number CB101.

Closing Date for Applications
The post will remain open until a suitable applicant is appointed. Early application is advised.

Further Information
For further details, please contact:
Dr D Bolam
Telephone: +44(0)191 208 8711

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