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Comparative analysis of carbon assimilation pathways in key species of marine phytoplankton

Department of Biology

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Dr T Tonon , Dr L Mackinder No more applications being accepted Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Seas and oceans cover more than 70% of our planet, contribute to half of the primary production on Earth, and are responsible for cycling half of the carbon fixed by living organisms. Algae are significant contributors to these processes. These organisms result from a complex evolutionary history that shape their metabolic networks. As an example, some algae have evolved unique pathways for polysaccharide and carbohydrate biosynthesis related to photosynthetic carbon assimilation. Over 100 whole-genome sequences from algae are published or will soon be published, providing a window into the functional potential of individual algae. Despite these resources, knowledge of primary metabolism in microalgae at the molecular level is still limited compared to the situation in land plants for instance.
Recent analysis has shown that metabolic pathways related to synthesis of the photosynthetic product mannitol were widespread and diverse in marine algae (Tonon et al. 2017, These include abundantly and globally distributed green picoalgae sharing evolution history with land plant, and bloom-forming and calcifying haptophytes. In this context, this project aim at characterizing microalgal mannitol biosynthetic enzymes, as well as to assess changes in carbohydrates content and in expression of relevant genes under different physiological conditions. Results obtained at different levels of biological organization will be combined to understand the physiological role(s) and environmental factors influencing mannitol metabolism. This will shed light on the physiology of key players in marine ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles. It will also help to understand the carbon cycle in the current context of disturbed global carbon balance due to climate change.

Funding Notes

This is a self-funded project. Applicants need to have adequate funds to meet the costs of a self-funded research project including tuition fees and living expenses for the duration of the research programme. Please see information on tuition fee costs, living expenses and funding opportunities.


Applications are welcome for either for a 1-year MSc by Research or for a 3-year PhD

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