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Bioengineering of bacterial CO2-concentrating system for improved photosynthesis

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  • Full or part time
    Dr LN Liu
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

With the rapid growth of the global population, the demand for food is steadily increasing. However, advancement in crop yields by traditional breeding has reached its limits. There is an urgent need to develop innovative strategies, by taking advantage of modern biotechnology, to enhance agricultural production.

The single-cell photosynthetic bacteria, cyanobacteria, account for over 25% of global carbon fixation, thanks for their powerful CO2-concentrating machinery. This unique system comprises proteins embedded in cell membranes to pump CO2 and bicarbonate through cell membranes and accumulate them in the cell, and the central CO2-fixing machines, named carboxysomes, to fix CO2. Advanced understanding of the formation and regulation of the CO2-concentrating system offers great opportunities for the construction of metabolic systems using synthetic biology. For example, introducing the active CO2-concentrating system into plants is considered as a promising strategy for boosting photosynthesis and crop yields. It will also inspire the development of new nanomaterials and protein scaffolds for enhanced cell metabolism and molecule delivery.

This project will address how components of the CO2-concentrating system are synthesised, how they are activated to be functional, and how to produce fully functional CO2-concentrating systems in other organisms, such as higher plants. The long-term goal is to provide novel solutions for underpinning plant engineering and food production, to meet the grand challenges in food and energy security.

This project represents joint scientific efforts of the Liu Lab at the University of Liverpool and the Daniel Lab and Marles-Wright Lab at Newcastle University, by combining interdisciplinary skills and training ranging from molecular genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, microbiology to biophysics synthetic biology and structural biology. The student will be based in the lab of Dr Luning Liu (, Liverpool), with the opportunity to spend 6 months in the Daniel Lab and Marles-Wright Lab at Newcastle and 3 months for industrial placement.

The University of Liverpool provides a unique combination of facilities and expertise for this project, including the Centre for Cell Imaging, Liverpool GeneMill, centres for Proteome Research, Computational Modelling and NMR Metabolomics. Training in all aspects of the project will be provided with access to state-of-the-art infrastructure in the Institute of Integrative Biology and with leading collaborators in the UK, Europe, Australia, US and China, which means that there will be good opportunities for developing a strong scientific network and the student’s career development.

For further information see the website:

To apply

Please complete the online application form and attach a full CV and covering letter. Informal enquiries may be made to [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year BBSRC studentship under the Newcastle-Liverpool-Durham DTP. The successful applicant will receive research costs, tuition fees and stipend (£14,777 for 2018-19). The PhD will start in October 2019. Applicants should have, or be expecting to receive, a 2.1 Hons degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. EU candidates must have been resident in the UK for 3 years in order to receive full support. There are 2 stages to the application process.


Fang Y, Huang F, Faulkner M, Jiang Q, Dykes GF, Yang M, Liu LN. Engineering and modulating functional cyanobacterial CO2-fixing organelles. Frontiers in Plant Science, 2018, 9: 739

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