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A role for the microbiome in the response of skin to ultraviolet radiation

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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Prof C A O'Neill , Prof A McBain Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

During the last decade, it has become clear that physiological health depends to a large extent, on the body’s relationship with its microbiome (reviewed in 1). The skin is no exception to this, and skin commensal bacteria have been shown to perform vital functions such as inhibition of pathogens, education of the skin immune system and even development of epidermal structure. Thus, the skin and its microbiome cannot be investigated in isolation since they are intimately connected both structurally and functionally.

Among the numerous environmental factors that impact upon skin on a daily basis, ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from sunlight is arguably the most important. In contrast to other human microbiotas, the commensal bacteria of the skin are unique in that they are regularly exposed to UVR. That bacteria are responsive to UVR is well established given numerous studies looking at the use of UVR as a method of sterilisation. However, the response of the skin microbiota to UVR has not been studied in any detail. In particular, whether the bacteria on skin can alter skin cells (keratinocytes) responses to UVR is unknown.

We have evidence that members of the skin microbiome can modify the response of keratinocytes to UVR. We have shown that particular bacteria can promote apoptosis of UVR exposed keratinocytes. Other bacteria can promote the survival of keratinocytes following UVR exposure. In this project, we will study these responses in more detail. We will aim to:

1) Identify the factors in bacteria that promote apoptosis or survival of keratinocytes following exposure to UVR
2) Using microarray, begin to identify the signalling pathways modified by bacterial components

Entry Requirements

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a biological science. Candidates with experience or an interest in microbiology or skin biology are encouraged to apply.

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select PhD Biochemsitry.

For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 3 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website ( For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit


Hadrich D (2018) Front genet 9;212, 00212

Grice EA, Segre, JA. (2011) Nat Rev Microbiol 9, 244-53.

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