Bacteria reproduce by binary fission, where one parent cell splits into two daughter cells. While this enables very fast reproduction, it limits the evolutionary rate and landscape as cells can only change through mutation or rearrangement of their existing genetic material. To overcome this, bacteria use horizontal gene transfer (HGT) to acquire new alleles and genes that allow them to rapidly adapt, such as acquiring antimicrobial resistance. One mechanism of HGT, natural transformation (the uptake of free DNA from the environment), has been likened to Eukaryotic sex, as the molecular machinery required is encoded on the chromosome and the transformation process is a normal part of cell behaviour.
While HGT has been proposed to provide various benefits to bacteria, the answers to fundamental questions about what bacteria do with the DNA they take up remain elusive because current methods for measuring recombination in bacteria have substantial limitations and are therefore likely to be underestimates of the true recombination frequency.
In this project you will join the groups of Dr Ben Evans in the Norwich Medical School, UEA, and Professor Cynthia Whitchurch at the Quadram Institute Bioscience to apply a new approach to measuring recombination in bacteria. Using the pathogens Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii as model systems, you will perform transformation assays and use state-of-the-art high resolution microscopy imaging to determine recombination frequency and determine the fate of the DNA once it enters the cell. You will acquire a highly desirable skillset covering microbiology, molecular biology, evolutionary biology and high-resolution microscopy
The Microbes, Microbiomes and Bioinformatics (MMB) Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) is open to UK and international candidates with relevant undergraduate degrees for entry in October 2023 and offers the opportunity to undertake a 4-year PhD research project funded by the UKRI Medical Research Council in microbiology and microbial bioinformatics.
Our unique and comprehensive training programme empowers students to feel comfortable running sophisticated computer analyses alongside laboratory work and emphasises problem-based learning in microbial bioinformatics, professional development and research skills. All students will undertake a Professional Placement.
Interviews for shortlisted candidates will take place on Wednesday 15 February or Tuesday 16 February 2023.
The MRC DTP is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. Students are selected without regard to age, disability, gender identity, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, ethnicity, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation or social background. We value curiosity, independence of thought, plus an aptitude for research that combines laboratory work and bioinformatics.
For information on eligibility and how to apply: www.uea.ac.uk/phd/mmbdtp