MRes/PhD Studentship – Understanding Carbohydrate Uptake by Members of the Human Gut Microbiota Institute for Cell and Molecular Bioscience (ICaMB)

  • Reference Code: CB086


Name of the supervisor(s)
Supervisor: Professor B van den Berg, Institute for cell and Molecular Bioscience (ICaMB)

Co-supervisor: Dr D Bolam (ICaMB)


Faculty of Medical Sciences

Duration of the award

3 or 4 years (three-year PhD OR an MRes Medical and Molecular Biosciences followed by a three-year PhD).

Project description

The outer membrane (OM) of Gram-negative bacteria forms a protective barrier that prevents spontaneous passage of small molecules. In order
for bacteria to acquire the necessary nutrients for growth, uptake systems comprised of beta-barrel membrane proteins are present in the
OM. Bacteroidetes are anaerobic Gram-negative bacteria that are predominant members of the human gut microbiota. They play a key role in the degradation of complex plant- and animal-derived polysaccharides that cannot be processed by the human proteome.

The microbiota has a significant impact on human health and nutrition through the production of short chain fatty acids and by interactions with the host immune system. Therefore, dietary and nutraceutical strategies could potentially be employed to encourage the dominance of beneficial microbes in the microbiota to maximise human health.

This project aims to study the mutually beneficial relationship between bacterium and host by examining the recognition and uptake of complex, dietary-derived polysaccharides by OM protein transporters of Bacteroidetes. Protein X-ray crystallography will be used to determine the structural basis of polysaccharide recognition and uptake, combined with functional studies of substrate binding and transport using in vitro reconstituted systems and whole cells. As such, the student will be trained in wide range of techniques including recombinant DNA technology, (membrane) protein expression/purification, protein crystallography and biochemical/biophysical assay development.

Value of the Award and Eligibility

The award covers tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and an annual stipend in line with Research Council rate (currently £13,590).

Person Specification

Candidates should have or expect to achieve a First Class or 2:1 Honours degree in a relevant science subject.

How to Apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application form inserting the reference number CB086 and selecting ‘Master of Research/Doctor of Philosophy (Medical Sciences) – cell and molecular biosciences’ as the programme of study. Only mandatory fields need to be completed (no personal statement required) and a covering letter, CV and (if English is not your first language) a copy of your English language qualifications must be attached. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote the reference number CB086 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project.

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