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Rewiring Bacterial Metabolism through Assembly of Biological nanowires (CLARKETU20VC)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Background: In a microbial fuel cell, respiring bacteria pass electrons generated during metabolism to an anode, which generates electric current. In gram negative bacteria this requires electrons to be transferred through the cytoplasmic membrane, across the periplasm, through the outer membrane and onto the anode. In the model organism S. oneidensis we recently resolved the molecular structure of the Mtr porin cytochrome complex that performs ET through the outer membrane. The Mtr complex contains three proteins; a 10-heme cytochrome called MtrA passes through a porin, MtrB and connects with a second 10-heme cytochrome called MtrC to make an electron transport chain of 20 hemes that spans a total distance of 185 Å. A network of heme containing proteins move electrons through weak, transient interactions between the cytoplasm and the Mtr complex.

Project: Recently a bioinformatic analysis of iron-oxidising bacteria revealed a cluster of 5 conserved genes predicted to express a new form of porin cytochrome complex. This complex is proposed to be a highly optimized 57 heme ‘wire’ between the cytoplasmic membrane and extracellular environment. We predict this hard-wired porin cytochrome complex would allow faster electron transfer through the cell, and directly connect the cells central metabolism and an electrode. We are now looking for a motivated student to help assemble this protein complex within the model organism S. oneidensis.

Training. To support this PhD project the student will be trained in a range of scientific techniques. Skills such as bioinformatics, gene synthesis and cloning will be used alongside techniques such as spectrophotometry, small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and x-ray crystallography. Training will be provided in these areas. Presentation of results at international conferences will be an important aspect of the training provided

More information on the supervisor for this project:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time
Studentship length: 3 years

Entry requirements;
Acceptable first degree in Biological sciences, Biochemistry, Microbiology, the standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1


1. Edwards, M. J. et al. Structural modelling of an outer membrane electron conduit from a metal-reducing bacterium suggests electron transfer via periplasmic redox partners. J Biol
2. Chem 293, 8103-8112, doi:10.1074/jbc.RA118.001850 (2018). White, G. F. et al. Mechanisms of Bacterial Extracellular Electron Exchange. Adv Microb Physiol 68, 87-138, doi:10.1016/bs.ampbs.2016.02.002 (2016).
3. White, G. F. et al. Rapid electron exchange between surface-exposed bacterial cytochromes and Fe(III) minerals. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110, 6346-6351, doi:10.1073/pnas.1220074110 (2013).

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