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PhD Research Project

The mechanism of cotranslational targeting by the “posttranslational” branch of the Sec pathway by SecA.

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School of Biosciences
Dr D Huber
Applications accepted all year round
Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

I am interested in understanding how newly synthesized proteins are recognized and transported across the cytoplasmic membrane by the Sec pathway in bacteria. The central component of this pathway is an integral membrane protein complex, SecYEG, which forms a channel in the cytoplasmic membrane through which substrate proteins are transported. There are two main branches of the Sec pathway by which substrate proteins are delivered to SecYEG: the posttranslational branch and the cotranslational branch. The posttranslational branch is responsible for the export of the majority of soluble periplasmic and outer membrane proteins in E. coli. However, until recently very little was known about how substrate proteins were recognized by the posttranslational branch. Export of substrates of the posttranslational branch typically begins either very late in the process of protein synthesis or after synthesis is complete, which has led to the widespread assumption that substrate recognition is independent of protein synthesis. (In contrast, substrates of the cotranslational branch are recognized very early in translation by the SRP, and the ribosome is directly coupled to SecYEG.) However, I recently discovered that a component of the posttranslational Sec machinery, the ATPase SecA, binds to the ribosome and appears to play a role in cotranslationally channeling proteins into the “posttranslational” translocation pathway.

PhD students in my lab will use current biochemical and bacterial genetics techniques to investigate the details of the molecular mechanism of cotranslational substrate recognition by SecA. Aspects of this mechanism that are of particular interest are the kinetics of association and dissociation of the different intermediates in the targeting pathway, the determinants and underlying mechanism of substrate specificity, and structure-function characterization of the SecA-ribosome complex.

To find out more about studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham, including full details of the research undertaken in each school, the funding opportunities for each subject, and guidance on making your application, you can now order your copy of the new Doctoral Research Prospectus, at:

Please find additional funding text below. For further funding details, please see the ‘Funding’ section.
The School of Biosciences offers a number of UK Research Council (e.g. BBSRC, NERC) PhD studentships each year. Fully funded research council studentships are normally only available to UK nationals (or EU nationals resident in the UK) but part-funded studentships may be available to EU applicants resident outside of the UK. The deadline for applications for research council studentships is 31 January each year.

Each year we also have a number of fully funded Darwin Trust Scholarships. These are provided by the Darwin Trust of Edinburgh and are for non-UK students wishing to undertake a PhD in the general area of Molecular Microbiology. The deadline for this scheme is also 31 January each year.

Funding Notes:

All applicants should indicate in their applications how they intend to fund their studies. We have a thriving community of international PhD students and encourage applications at any time from students able to find their own funding or who wish to apply for their own funding (e.g. Commonwealth Scholarship, Islamic Development Bank).

The postgraduate funding database provides further information on funding opportunities available and further information is also available on the School of Biosciences website


Huber D, Rajagopalan N, Preissler S, Rocco MA, Merz F, Kramer G, and Bukau B. (2011) SecA interacts with ribosomes in order to facilitate posttranslational translocation in bacteria. Mol Cell. 41:343-53

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 42.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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