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(BBSRC DTP) Reductive dehalogenation and detoxification of pollutants

Project Description

Many of the key pollutants released into the environment are halogenated organic molecules, containing at least one or more chloride or bromide atoms. As a direct consequence of the halogenation, these compounds are persistent and can exhibit a range of toxic effects. Biological degradation can occur through oxidation, but many environments are anaerobic (i.e. river bed/sludge, deep sea), leading to significant accumulation. Certain bacteria have been found to use halogenated organic compounds as terminal electron acceptor, in effect respiring on pollutants and thereby performing a bioremediatory role under anaerobic conditions. The key reaction in this process, reductive dehalogenation, is catalysed by a B12-dependent enzyme that our group (see references) and others have studied in detail. We aim to unlock the bioremediation potential of these enzymes by developing robust self-sufficient variants that can directly couple NAD(P)H oxidation to reductive dehalogenation. Our ultimate goal is to develop a toolbox of catalysts that can detoxify compounds such as brominated flame-retardants that have now been found to accumulate at even the deepest sea trenches.
The PhD student will be based in Department of Chemistry and the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) and will be co-supervised by Professor David Leys (synthetic and structural biology), Dr Sam Hay (computational chemistry) and Professor Andrew Munro (biophysical studies of redox systems). The project is interdisciplinary, giving the student the opportunity to gain broad experience in modern experimental biophysics, enzymology, biocatalysis and structural biology alongside biochemically-relevant computational chemistry and data analysis.

Entry Requirements:
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is to be funded under the BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website View 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.


1. Payne, K.A.P. et al. (2015) Nature, 517, 513-517
2. Johannissen, L.O. et al (2017) Phys Chem Chem Phys, 19, 6090-6094
3. Collins, F.A. et al (2019) Biochemistry, 57, 3493-3502

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