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Bioengineering of bacterial CO2-concentrating system for improved photosynthesis

Institute of Integrative Biology

About the Project

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 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 generated, how they are activated to be functional, and how to engineer fully functional CO2-concentrating machinery in other organisms. 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.

The Liu Lab ( uses interdisciplinary approaches including molecular genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, microbiology to biophysics synthetic biology and structural biology. Training will be provided with access to state-of-the-art infrastructure in the Institute of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool, including the Centres for Cell Imaging, Synthetic Biology, Proteomics, and Metabolomics. and with leading collaborators in the UK and overseas, providing good opportunities for the student’s career development.

We invite applications from highly motivated students with a wide range of academic backgrounds including molecular biology, biochemistry, microbiology, or biotechnology. Applicants should hold, or be expected to achieve, a First or Upper second-class UK honours degree (or equivalent qualification gained outside the UK), or a Master degree, and have demonstrated an ability to work in a laboratory environment.

Funding Notes

The project is open to both European/UK and International students. It is UNFUNDED and applicants are encouraged to contact the Principal Supervisor directly to discuss their application and the project.

Assistance will be given to those who are applying to international funding schemes.

The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses as well as research costs of £5000 per year.

A fee bursary may be available for well qualified and motivated applicants.

Details of costs can be found on the University website:
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1. Huang F, Vasieva O, Sun Y, Faulkner M, Dykes G, Zhao Z, Liu LN*. Roles of RbcX in carboxysome biosynthesis in the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC7942. Plant Physiology, 2019, 179(1): 184-194.

2. 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

3. Faulkner M, Rodriguez-Ramos J, Dykes GF, Owen SV, Casella S, Simpson DM, Beynon RJ, Liu LN. Direct characterization of the native structure and mechanics of cyanobacterial carboxysomes. Nanoscale, 2017, 9(30): 10662-10673.

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