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Synthetic metabolic pathways and biosensor systems for production and detection of chemicals in Cupriavidus necator

Project Description

The production of chemicals from renewable sources is a key for a sustainable future. Various compounds can be produced by bacteria and yeast carrying synthetic metabolic pathways assembled of multiple genes derived from other organisms. Lithoautotropic bacteria such as Cupriavidus necator possess the attractive property of converting carbon dioxide into organic compounds using hydrogen as a sole energy source. The PhD project will be aimed at engineering C. necator to produce specialty chemicals such as acrylate, itaconate, 1,3-propandiol , and others, and to develop sensory systems for detection of these compounds. Combinatorial transcriptional engineering and genetically encoded metabolic switch strategies will be used for optimisation of synthetic metabolic pathways. Development and optimisation of the aerobic C1 gas fermentation process for bioproduction of high value chemicals will play important part in the project.

The ability of autotrophic organism such as C. necator to fix carbon dioxide will present an opportunity to utilise this ‘greenhouse gas’ as an inexpensive substrate for chemical production. The use of this microorganism as a production platform will provide an exciting prospect for bio-based chemical production.

The project will be carried out within the BBSRC/EPSRC Synthetic Biology Research Centre (SBRC). The successful candidate will join a highly motivated and well-funded team of research scientists dedicated to the exploitation of industrial important microorganisms. The SBRC is located in state-of-the-art facilities in the £25M Centre for Biomolecular Sciences ( Centre’s set-up will provide training in a unique multidisciplinary environment. The project will include a strong wet component, for which the student will require to become familiar with an array of experimental techniques. The study will allow for training in a unique multidisciplinary environment, incorporating systems and synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, gas fermentation, biochemical and biophysical analytical techniques. The project will also include an exciting dry component, which will require a good grasp of general metabolic pathway design and analysis techniques. It is also anticipated that the nature of how SBRC is organized will provide good opportunities for building new academic and industrial links.

The University of Nottingham is one of the world’s most respected research-intensive universities, ranked 8th in the UK for research power (REF 2014). Students studying in the School of Life Sciences will have the opportunity to thrive in a vibrant, multidisciplinary environment, with expert supervision from leaders in their field, state-of-the-art facilities and strong links with industry. Students are closely monitored in terms of their personal and professional progression throughout their study period and are assigned academic mentors in addition to their supervisory team. The School provides structured training as a fundamental part of postgraduate personal development and our training programme enables students to develop skills across the four domains of the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF). During their studies, students will also have the opportunity to attend and present at conferences around the world. The School puts strong emphasis on the promotion of postgraduate research with a 2-day annual PhD research symposium attended by all students, plus academic staff and invited speakers.

Funding Notes

Home applicants should contact the supervisor to determine the current funding status for this project. EU applicants should visit the Graduate School webpages for information on specific EU scholarships View Website. International applicants should visit our International Research Scholarships page for information regarding fees and funding at the University View Website.


Chu, H.S., Ahn, J.-H., Yun, J., Choi, I.S., Nam, T.-W., Cho, K.M. (2015) Direct fermentation route for the production of acrylic acid. Metabolic Engineering, 32, 23-29.

Jiang, Y., Liu, W., Zou, H., Cheng, T., Tian, N., Xian, M. (2014) Microbial production of short chain diols. Microbial Cell Factories, 13.

Nybo, S.E., Khan, N.E., Woolston, B.M., Curtis, W.R. (2015) Metabolic engineering in chemolithoautotrophic hosts for the production of fuels and chemicals. Metabolic Engineering, 30, 105-120.

Pohlmann, A., Fricke, W.F., Reinecke, F., Kusian, B., Liesegang, H. et al. (2006) Genome sequence of the bioplastic-producing "Knallgas" bacterium Ralstonia eutropha H16. Nature Biotechnology, 24, 1257-1262.

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 90.86

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

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