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Molecular mechanisms of adaptation in globally successful cyanobacteria

Project Description

Cyanobacteria are the most abundant photosynthetic organisms on the planet. Their success is rooted in a diversity of strategies that allow them to adapt to the highly varied physical and chemical marine. This ability has allowed marine cyanobacteria to thrive in nutrient-deplete habitats, such as the oceanographic gyres.
Understanding this ecological success by studying the mechanisms of adaptation is a highly interdisciplinary scientific challenge. Our project takes a molecular approach, characterizing key molecular systems that are suited to understand adaptation strategies. It spans from genetic studies and biochemical characterization to fieldwork studying these systems in the oceans. The reward of this approach is a better understanding of adaptation strategies, which in future can be harvested, e.g. by developing technologies or efficient processes that reduce our reliance on products and energy derived from fossil fuels.
The project focusses on the study of selected key enzymes that are upregulated in the context of nutrient limitation in the globally important genus Trichodesmium [1], a diazotroph that can directly use N2 as their sole source of nitrogen. The antagonistic processes of oxygenic photosynthesis and N2 fixation can simultaneously be performed in Trichodesmium, whilst producing the biofuel hydrogen gas (H2) as a by-product.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click View Website for more information on eligibility and how to apply


1. Reintjes G, Tegetmeyer HE, Bürgisser M, Orlić S, Tews I, Zubkov M, Voß D, Zielinski O, Quast C, Glöckner FO, Amann R, Ferdelman TG, Fuchs BM. On-Site Analysis of Bacterial Communities of the Ultraoligotrophic South Pacific Gyre. Appl Environ Microbiol. 85 (2019), e00184-19.
2. Polyviou D, Machelett MM, Hitchcock A, Baylay AJ, MacMillan F, Moore CM, Bibby TS, Tews I. Structural and functional characterisation of IdiA/FutA (Tery_3377), an iron binding protein from the ocean diazotroph Trichodesmium erythraeum. J Biol Chem. 293 (2018), 18099-18109.
3. Browning TJ, Achterberg EP, Rapp I, Engel A, Bertrand EM, Moore CM. Nutrient co-limitation at the boundary of an oceanic gyre. Nature 551 (2017), 242–246.

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

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

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