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PhD Studentship: Chemical Biology: Investigating the Substrate Specificities of Polypeptide N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferases (GalNAc-Ts)

   School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr Tom McAllister  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project


Proteins are decorated with a plethora of post-translational modifications including phosphorylation, acetylation, methylation and glycosylation. The addition of N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) on to serine and threonine residues in proteins is a type of O-glycosylation controlled by the GalNAc-transferases (GalNAc-Ts), a family of 20 different isoforms in humans. Other enzymes subsequently add other sugars build up larger glycan structures that form the molecular basis of cellular recognition and the protective mucus barrier among other functions. All GalNAc-T isoforms carry out the same reaction, but different isoforms are expressed to different levels at different times in different tissues. Currently, the substrate preferences and functions of these isoforms are only partially understood. Knowing how GalNAc-Ts identify their substrates will be crucial in better treatment and understanding of diseases in which O-glycosylation becomes mis-regulated such as some cancers and inflammatory bowel disease.

This chemical biology PhD project will use mRNA-display of peptide libraries to unambiguously identify the precise sequence specificity of GalNAc-Ts, including the effects of proximal post-translationally modified residues e.g. phosphorylation, glycosylation. Putative substrate sequences will be confirmed with in vitro assays to determine catalytic properties and used in database searching to determine new candidate proteins which will be followed up with cellular experiments and proteomics.

The successful candidate will join a diverse group of researchers within the Chemical Biology section of the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences and have an interest in biological chemistry, specifically carbohydrates and peptides/proteins. Previous experience with molecular biology lab work, peptide synthesis and/or Next Generation Sequencing would be desirable. The student will gain technical skills and training (dependent upon background) in a combination of molecular biology, chemical and peptide synthesis, recombinant protein expression, mRNA-display screening and both in vitro and cellular assays.

Number Of Awards


Start Date

October 2022 

Award Duration

4 years


The Royal Society and Newcastle University (School of Natural and Environmental Sciences)


Dr Tom E. McAllister

Eligibility Criteria

We are looking for highly motivated individuals who have or are expecting to attain at least a 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry, Biochemistry or another relevant subject with experience in chemical biology.

This studentship is available to applicants with a Home fee status only (residency rules apply). Funding will cover stipend, tuition fees and research consumables at the UK rate for 4 years. 

How To Apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system.

You will need to:

·        Insert the programme code 8100F in the programme of study section

·        Select ‘PhD Chemistry (full time) - Chemistry’ as the programme of study

·        Insert the studentship code SNES222 in the studentship/partnership reference field

·        Attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code SNES222 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project

·        Attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications

Contact Details

For project-related enquiries please contact [Email Address Removed].

For all other enquiries please contact [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

100% of Home tuition fees paid plus annual stipend of £16,062(subject to minor change)
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