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Elucidating plant alkaloid biosynthesis

Project Description

Plants are capable of forming complex natural products from simple starting materials. Many of these natural products are bioactive, but access is limited as they are difficult to synthesise using organic chemistry and are present in small quantities in the natural source. By understanding the molecular and genetic basis for natural product biosynthesis, it is possible to gain greater access to these valuable compounds using biocatalysis or synthetic biology.

This project involves elucidating biosynthetic routes to plant alkaloids (nitrogen containing natural products). Gene candidates will be identified using sequencing technologies (e.g. transcriptomics, genomics). These genes will be cloned and the enzymes expressed recombinantly, in E. coli, yeast or Nicotiana benthamiana. Substrates for proposed enzyme reactions will be synthesised. Enzymes capable of catalysing alkaloid-forming reactions will be identified and characterised using mass-spectrometry. Multi-enzyme pathways will be constructed in heterologous hosts or in vitro to produce complex alkaloids from simple precursors. The aim of this project is to discover, characterise and utilise biocatalysts from alkaloid producing plants.

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.

How good is research at University of York in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.37

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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