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Investigating the molecular basis for Rubisco acclimation to increasing temperature

Project Description

Humankind faces the unprecedented challenge of meeting the needs of a growing global population projected to hit the 9-10 billion mark by 2050. How to feed the rising population and meet the high-energy demands to sustain economic growth without destroying the environment is a formidable task. Tackling this key global challenge requires new agritech innovations developed from "thinking outside the box". Photosynthesis stands as an attractive system, which can be targeted for improvements to increase biomass for energy and for food. Our research aims to understand how plants can acclimate to high temperatures through modifications to the basic process of photosynthetic carbon fixation. In translational terms, the research outcomes will provide essential knowledge for engineering better heat tolerance in crops to boost their yield under high temperatures and to mitigate negative effects of hot summers predicted to increase in both duration and frequency due to climate change.

Plants in different biomes across the world have adapted to different temperature regimes, and net photosynthesis can acclimate on a seasonal basis to growth-season temperature, so there is clearly considerable diversity in the sensitivity of plants to increasing temperatures. To study mechanisms of enzymic responses during plant acclimation, we will analyse Rubisco kinetic properties, expression of different copies of rbcS and Rubisco activase genes, changes in Rubisco small subunit composition, and Rubisco posttranslational modifications in plants cultivated under contrasting temperatures.

This project represents joint scientific efforts of labs at Newcastle and Durham universities, by combining interdisciplinary skills and training ranging from bioinformatics to plant molecular biology, genetics, proteomics, and stress physiology. The student will be based in the Newcastle University Devonshire Building, which is a flagship building for plant and microbial, as well as synthetic biology. Collegial atmosphere and open space lab and office areas of the Devonshire Building as well as its diversity will make it easy for the student to learn from other PhD students and postdocs as well as from PI. The geographical proximity of Newcastle and Durham universities, which are only 30 minutes apart from each other, will make it possible for the student to use complementary lab facilities in both Newcastle and Durham on regular basis.

Applications should be made by emailing with a CV (including contact details of at least two academic (or other relevant) referees), and a covering letter – clearly stating your first choice project, and optionally 2nd and 3rd ranked projects, as well as including whatever additional information you feel is pertinent to your application; you may wish to indicate, for example, why you are particularly interested in the selected project(s) and at the selected University. Applications not meeting these criteria will be rejected.
In addition to the CV and covering letter, please email a completed copy of the Additional Details Form (Word document) to . A blank copy of this form can be found at:
Informal enquiries may be made to

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 (£15,009 for 2019-20). The PhD will start in October 2020. 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. Please note, there are 2 stages to the application process.


One thousand plant transcriptomes and the phylogenomics of green plants. Nature 2019, 574, 679–685 doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1693-2

Stress-adaptive gene discovery by exploiting collective decision-making of decentralised plant response systems. New Phytologist 2019,

Identifying differentially expressed proteins in sorghum cell cultures exposed to osmotic stress. Scientific Reports 2018, 8, 8671.

Comparative proteomic analysis of horseweed (Conyza canadensis) biotypes identifies candidate proteins for glyphosate resistance. Scientific Reports 2017, 7, 42565.

Temperature responses of Rubisco from Paniceae grasses provide opportunities for improving C3 photosynthesis. Nature Plants 2016, 2:16186.

Surveying Rubisco diversity and temperature response to improve crop photosynthetic efficiency. Plant Physiol. 2016, 172(2):707-717.

A Novel function for Arabidopsis CYCLASE1 in programmed cell death revealed by isobaric tags for relative and absolute quantitation (iTRAQ) analysis of extracellular matrix proteins. Molecular & Cellular Proteomics 2015, 14, 1556-1568

Improving recombinant Rubisco biogenesis, plant photosynthesis and growth by coexpressing its ancillary RAF1 chaperone. PNAS 2015, 112(11):3564-9

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