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Self-funded project: Uncovering the biological roles of recently discovered carbohydrate-active enzymes in green microalgae.


   Department of Biology


About the Project

Photosynthetic microalgae are microbes that have colonized every habitat on Earth, and are paramount in fueling the global ocean biological carbon pump. Moreover, microalgal biotechnology is of prime importance for developing a sustainable economy. Algae result from a complex evolutionary history that shape their metabolic networks, and many aspects of their biology remain understudied despite expanding access to genomic and genetic tools. As an illustration, lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs), enzymes known to be involved in the metabolism of polysaccharides in bacteria, fungi, and insects, have been recently discovered in algae (Sabbadin et al. Nat. Com. 2018), and no biological roles have been associated with these enzymes in these organisms yet. Interestingly, Sabbadin et al. (Science 2021) have recently characterized a new type of LPMOs involved in infection process of the plant pathogenic oomycete Phytophthora infestans, an organism that is phylogenetically closely related to some photosynthetic microalgae.

In this context, the current project will investigate the potential roles of three candidate LPMOs identified in the green microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. This organism is a well establish genetic and genomic model to study different aspects of algal biology. Preliminary analysis has suggested roles in different biological process for these three enzymes, and hypotheses will be tested using a combination of reverse genetics, cell biology, biochemical, molecular, and in silico approaches. Results obtained through this project will advance understanding on fundamental processes such as algal primary metabolism and environmental adaptation. It will help to better understand the ecological success of algae, and will provide support for their uses in biotechnological applications.

The University of York are committed to recruiting future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and we have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Entry Requirements: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions. 

Programme: PhD in Biology (3 years)

Start Date: 1st October 2022


Funding Notes

This is a self funded research project. Applicants need to have adequate funds to meet the costs of a self-funded research project including tuition fees and living expenses for the duration of the research programme.

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