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Burgess project: Elucidation of the role of peptide transporters in intrinsic resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics

Department of Biology

About the Project

The resistance of bacteria to antibiotics is a massive issue facing mankind, that threatens our ability to control infectious disease. While much of this resistance is mediated by genes that can move about to confer a specific modification or removal of the antibiotic, there are many native host genes that influence the intrinsic level of resistance to antibiotics. The ability of beta-lactam antibiotics like penicillin to function is based on their chemical structure that mimics that of a peptide found in the cell wall. This peptide-like structure is also what enables them to be efficiently taken up in our gut cells when we take the antibiotic. This is mediated by human peptide transporters that are involved in uptake and systemic dissemination of the antibiotic around the body. In the Thomas lab we have studied a range of bacterial transporters, including peptide transporters, and have data that suggests that these transporters might have a role in intrinsic resistance to beta-lactams, through the rapid uptake of beta-lactams into the cell and removal from their site of action in the periplasm. In this project the student will investigate this hypothesis and the roles of diverse peptide transporters in this process, in E. coli, Salmonella Typhimurium and Staphylococcus aureus, whilst also learning more generally about the physiological role of these transporters in bacteria. The project will include a range of bacterial genetic methods, growth experiments combined with some protein biochemistry where relevant. The project will provide insight into bacterial transport function and potentially undercover a previously unappreciated route for modulating the susceptibility of bacteria to beta-lactam antibiotics.

The Department of Biology at the University of York is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Funding Notes

This project will be fully-funded by the James Burgess Scholarship for three years. The funding includes:

Tax-free annual stipend at UKRI rate (£15,285 for 2020/21)
UK tuition fees (£4,473 for 2021/22)
Research support and training charges (RSTC)

Only UK students are eligible for this funding scheme.

A number of projects are competing for this funding scheme, each will nominate their strongest candidate to a Selection Panel. Nominated candidates will be invited for interview but only one student will be offered the studentship.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions.

START DATE: 1st October 2021

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