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Structure:function of essential predation proteins

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, January 12, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The bacterial predator Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus is a natural killer of other bacteria, and may eventually be used in a therapeutic or bioremediation context. It would thus be beneficial if we understood the molecular basis of its predatory lifestyle, and the “toolkit” encoded to manipulate (and eventually destroy) the prey cell.
Efforts to identify key predation genes have been aided by RNAseq and array studies (1), and a recent transposon-based method to screen for essentiality (2). The Lovering lab specializes in protein structure:function relationships, and the basis of this project will be taking a select grouping of essential, yet cryptic genes (validated in refs 1 &2) and using structure to infer the role played in predation. An overview of our approach can be seen here:, and good examples of discerning predatory function via structure can be taken from two of our recent publications (3, 4). Structure is particularly important because Bdellovibrio is unique and shares limited sequence homology with “traditionally well-characterized” bacteria.
The cryptic genes will presumably have some level of interplay with other projects ongoing in the lab that look to characterize processes central to predation, namely cell wall modification, membrane pore formation, signalling, prey macromolecule breakdown, metabolite uptake, host cell reinforcement and filamentous intracellular division.
(1) Lambert C, Chang CY, Capeness MJ, Sockett RE. The first bite--profiling the predatosome in the bacterial pathogen Bdellovibrio. PLoS One. 2010 Jan 6;5(1):e8599.
(2) Duncan MC, Gillette RK, Maglasang MA, Corn EA, Tai AK, Lazinski DW, Shanks RMQ, Kadouri DE, Camilli A. High-Throughput Analysis of Gene Function in the Bacterial Predator Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus. MBio. 2019 Jun 11;10(3). pii: e01040-19.
(3) Cadby IT, Basford SM, Nottingham R, Meek R, Lowry R, Lambert C, Tridgett M, Till R, Ahmad R, Fung R, Hobley L, Hughes WS, Moynihan PJ, Sockett RE, Lovering AL. Nucleotide signaling pathway convergence in a cAMP-sensing bacterial c-di-GMP phosphodiesterase. EMBO J. 2019 Sep 2;38(17):e100772.
(4) Meek R, Cadby IT, Moynihan, PJ, Lovering AL. Structural Basis for Activation of a Bdellovibrio Diguanylate Cyclase that Licenses Prey Entry. Nature Communications accepted 2019.

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 42.80

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

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