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Functional studies of BacteRiophage EXclusion (BREX) systems (Durham)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr T Blower
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The project will suit a motivated PhD student with an interest in bacteria-bacteriophage interactions, structural biology and functional genomics. The project offers the successful candidate an opportunity to gain experience through working alongside two supervisors with proven track records. Principal supervisor Dr Tim Blower is a new academic, an active lab researcher and member of the Biophysical Sciences Institute at the University of Durham, providing teaching in practical aspects of microbial genetics, protein biochemistry and structural biology, including access to the world-leading UK synchrotron facility, Diamond Light Source. Co-supervisor Professor Jay Hinton (Liverpool) is an established researcher with expertise in functional genomics and the candidate will have the opportunity to work with Professor Hinton and gain first-hand experience with the next generation sequencing systems available at the Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool. Together, the supervisors will provide the candidate with well-rounded supervision and exposure to a wide range of cross-disciplinary techniques. Bacteria-bacteriophage infections occur at a truly astronomical scale; 10^25 infections a second! This huge selection pressure drives microbial evolution, leading to the development of bacterial systems that protect from bacteriophage predation. A novel resistance mechanism, the BacteRiophage Exclusion (BREX) system, presents an excellent opportunity to explore another weapon in the ongoing molecular warfare between bacteria and bacteriophages. The candidate will examine BREX systems have been identified in strains of Escherichia and non-typhoidal (NTS) Salmonella. Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium is a bacterial pathogen that generally causes gastroenteritis in humans. In recent decades, NTS Salmonella has been causing blood-stream infections in sub-Saharan Africa that kill about 20% of infected children and 50% of adults. The severity of the infection caused by this particular type of Salmonella accounts for about 375,000 deaths per year in Africa. Unfortunately, the responsible strain has recently been isolated from infected humans in the UK. Studying these BREX systems using state-of-the-art biochemical, structural biology and functional genomic techniques will highlight new aspects of bacterial and bacteriophage co-evolution. This information will lead to a better understanding of how bacteriophages mediate horizontal gene transfer of traits such as virulence factors and antimicrobial resistance, and explore the use of bacteriophages as a means to control bacterial infections.

For further information see the website:

To apply:
Please submit a full CV and covering letter directly to [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year BBSRC studentship under the Newcastle-Liverpool-Durham DTP. The successful applicant will receive research costs, tuition fees and stipend (£14,057 for 2015-16). The PhD will start in September 2016. Applicants should have, or be expecting to receive, a 2.1 Hons degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. EU candidates must have been resident in the UK for 3 years in order to receive full support. There are 2 stages to the application process.


Blower TR, Evans TJ, Przybilski R, Fineran PC & Salmond GP (2012) Viral Evasion of a Bacterial Suicide System by RNA-Based Molecular Mimicry Enables Infectious Altruism. PLoS Genet 8: e1003023

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