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Structure/function studies of component proteins of anti-feeding prophage (Afp), a bacteriophage tail-like particle using high-resolution cryo-EM and x-ray crystallography

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

We are seeking a highly motivated candidate to carry out structure/function studies of component proteins of anti-feeding prophage (Afp), a bacteriophage tail-like particle using high-resolution cryo-EM and x-ray crystallography. The project is in collaboration with Dr. Mark Hurst of NZ Ag Research and funded by a grant from Ministry of Business, innovation and Employment from the NZ govt.

The bacteria derived anti-feeding prophage (Afp) is a unique DNA-free entity likened to a cell-free type 6 secretion system. It is pathogenic to a biological pest, the New Zealand pasture (grass grub) by transporting and delivering a protein toxin to the grass grub larvae. In order to assess the mechanism of Afp assembly and target cell interaction, using structural, molecular and cell biology, we seek to determine and demonstrate the mechanism of Afp cell targeting and toxin delivery to the insect grass grub host. [(1) Hurst et al. (2004) J. Bacteriol. 186:5116-5128; 2) Hurst et al. (2007) FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 270:42-48), (3) Heymann, J. B., Bartho, J. D., Rybakova, D. et al. (2013) J. Biol. Chem. 288: 25276-25284. (4) Rybakova, D., Radjainia, M., et al. (2013) Mol. Microbiol. 89: 702-714. (5) Rybakova, D., Schramm, P., Mitra, A. K., and Hurst, M. R. H. (2015). Mol. Microbiol. 96:815-826)]

The selected candidate for Ph. D. should have background in biophysics or protein structural biochemistry with GPA in M. Sc. around 8 (out of 10). Experience in Structural Biology and transmission electron microscopy will be preferred but not essential. Familiarity with recombinant protein expression and/or X-ray crystallography will be a plus.

The cryo-EM facility at UoA is the premier such facility at New Zealand. We have a FEI T120 (cryo) for routine work and a TF20 equipped with GIF for high-resolution cryo-EM and cryo-tomography work. We have direct access to the Titan Krios facilities at Monash University Australia and to a similar facility at Wollongong University through a strategic research linkage. The computing facility within our laboratory and the access to computing cluster at UoA is sufficient for large-volume image processing. We also have access to an International class X-ray crystallography facility in house and ready access to the Australian Synchrotron facility.

University of Auckland has a vibrant research environment and is the premier such Institute in New Zealand. Auckland is a multi-ethnic cosmopolitan city consistently ranked amongst the top ten cities in the world. New Zealand is well known for its scenic beauty.
For further information, please send a current CV and contact Dr. Alok K. Mitra, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. Tel: +64 09 923 8162, E.mail: or Dr. Mark H. Hurst, Forage Science AgReserach Lincoln, New Zealand Tel +64 03 3259919, E-mail:

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