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Iron storage and detoxification in human ferritins (LEBRUNU20DTP2)

Project Description

Iron is an essential micronutrient for life, but its reactivity also means that it is potentially extremely toxic, and uncontrolled reactions with O2 can generate reactive oxygen species, which cause cellular damage and death. Indeed, breakdown in cellular iron metabolism is linked, directly or indirectly, to many disease states. Thus, organisms/cells must carefully regulate the amount and form of iron. This is, in part, achieved through storage of iron as a ferric mineral solubilised within ferritin proteins, which are found in all types of cells.

Ferritins are composed of 24 subunits arranged in a highly symmetric fashion to form a football-shaped molecule, in which a rust-like iron mineral is formed. Animal ferritins are composed of a mixture of two types of subunits, H-chain and L-chain, and the H-chain type contains an active site that catalyses the formation of the mineral. The aim of the project is to understand how human ferritins store/detoxify iron, and what the consequences of variable H/L subunit proportions are for this mechanism. New fundamental insight gained through the project will impact on understanding of cellular iron metabolism and its importance for health.

This multi-disciplinary project will be based in the Le Brun lab at UEA, and will involve protein purification, biochemistry, spectroscopy, crystallography and rapid kinetic methods, offering excellent training potential for the appointed student within a supportive and stimulating environment.

Project supervisor:
Project sponsor: Norwich Research Park Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: 1 October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time
Studentship length: 4 years


- First degree (2:1 or above) in relevant subject
- English language (IELTS 6.5 overall, 6 in each section)


This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition. Candidates will be interviewed on either the 7th, 8th or 9th January 2020.

The NRP DTP offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP students undertake a three-month professional internship (PIPS) during their study. The internship offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

For further information and to apply, please visit our website:

Funding Notes

For funding eligibility guidance, please visit our website: View Website. Full Studentships cover a stipend (2019/0 rate: £15,009pa), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements.

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