Fully Funded Studentship Biogenesis of a key enzyme in controlling climate change (LEBRUN_U14DTP)

School of Chemistry (UEA)

29 November 2013. Available from 1 October 2014.

Professor Nick Le Brun

The Project:

Atmospheric nitrous oxide not only destroys stratospheric ozone, it also accounts for ~10% of the impact due to greenhouse gases. Much of the nitrous oxide generated arises from activity of soil bacteria that are able to grow anaerobically through denitrification, a process central to the biogeochemical cycling of nitrogen, in which nitrate is reduced stepwise to dinitrogen via nitrite, nitric oxide and nitrous oxide. The last step of the pathway, reduction of nitrous oxide to dinitrogen, is catalysed by the enzyme nitrous oxide reductase (N2OR); failure of this step to occur is the major cause of nitrous oxide release into the atmosphere.  Increased levels of denitrification and hence nitrous oxide emissions have arisen through the increased use in agriculture of nitrogenous fertilisers.

N2OR contains two distinct copper cofactors: CuA, is a thiol-bridged dinuclear copper centre, and CuZ, a unique copper-sulfur cluster, [4Cu-2S].  Biogenesis of N2OR is dependent on a number of assembly proteins whose functions are not well defined.  These include proteins that are involved in the specific delivery of copper and sulfide to the enzyme.  The aim of this multi-disciplinary project is to provide new molecular detail of the trafficking of copper and sulfide, for incorporation into CuA and CuZ centres.

The project will employ molecular genetics and metabolite analysis to study Paracoccus denitrificans, a model denitrifying organism, and protein purification, and biochemical and biophysical characterisation to study assembly factor proteins.  The work will lead to new insights into the biogenesis of N2OR that will feed into efforts towards maximising N2OR activity in soils, with the long term benefit of reducing N2O emissions.

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Entry Requirements:

2:1 or 2:2 plus Masters. English Language – IELTS 6.5 overall with 6 in each category.


Due to funding restrictions funding for PhD studentships from BBSRC is available to successful candidates who meet the UK Research Council eligibility criteria including the 3-year UK residency requirements. These requirements are detailed in the BBSRC eligibility guidelines:

http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Guidelines/studentship_eligibility.pdf. All candidates should check to confirm their eligibility for funding.

The current stipend for 2013/14 is £13,726 per annum.

Making Your Application:

For further information and to apply, please visit the ‘How to Apply’ page on our website by clicking Apply.

Additional Information:

In keeping with the postgraduate training policy of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) all students recruited onto this programme will be required to undertake a three months internship during the second or third year of their study. The internship will offer exciting and invaluable experience of work in an area outside of research, and full support and advice will be provided by a professional team from the UEA.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) – a collaboration between the Norwich Biosciences Institutes and the University of East Anglia.  Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the Studentship Competition.  The interview dates will be the 14th and 15th January 2014.

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