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The effects of β-glucan and chitin polysaccharides from Mycoprotein on the health of the gut microbiota. (Ref: RDFC18/APP/MUNOZ)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, April 26, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The Human Gut Microbiota (HGM) comprises two major phyla, the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, although important members of the Actinobacteria (Bifidobacterium) and Verrucomicrobia (Akkemansia) also make an important contribution to this ecosystem. There is a mutual dependence between the host and the HGM. The host provides a stable environment for the bacteria and a plentiful supply of dietary glycans. Numerous studies have linked the HGM with nutritional status and health
Prebiotics are defined as substances, generally carbohydrates, which increase the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, e.g. Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus.
Currently only the beneficial effects of galactooligosaccharides, fructooligosaccharides and inulin are well characterised. There has been little effort to study fungi as a new source of prebiotics and, in this context, the fungi Fusarium venenatum, is an intriguing target.
β-glucan and chitin, the major components of the Fusarium venenatum cell wall, have shown potential as prebiotic candidates in vitro. However, the specific interactions in the digestion of these glycans by HGM and their specific metabolism in vivo has not been explored.
This project will determine which species in the gut are capable of degrading β-glucan/chitin polysaccharides from Mycoprotein. We will explore the potential of non-digestible fibre isolated from mycoprotein to act as a prebiotic for the gut microbiota. Further, we will increase understanding of its microbial degradation. Specifically, we will seek to determine the degradative metabolic pathway of Mycoprotein fibres by Bacteroides sp. (Bacteroidetes phyla) and Ruminococcus bromii (Firmicutes phyla) and later to determine its prebiotic capacity. We will determine if host microorganisms, selectively utilize these glycans conferring a human health benefit, e.g. by increasing the abundance and activity of beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacterium, and Lactobacillus.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDFC18/APP/MUNOZ…) will not be considered.
Deadline for applications: 5pm, Friday 26th April 2019
Interviews: late May 2019
Start Date: 1st October 2019

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home and EU students, including a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa) and full Home/ EU Fees


Recent publications by supervisors relevant to this project
1. Cartmell, A.; Muñoz-Muñoz, J.L.; Briggs, J.; Ndeh, D.; Lowe, E.; Basle, A.; Terrapon, N.; Stott, K.; Yu, L.; Dupree, P.; Fernandes, P.Z.; Shah, S.; Williams S.J.; Labourel, A.; Henrissat, B. and Gilbert, H.J. (2018). The cellular location of endo-acting galactanases confers keystone or recipient status to arabinogalactan degrading organisms of the human gut Microbiota. Nature Microbiol. (In press,
2. Ndeh, D.; Muñoz-Muñoz, J.L.; Cartmell, A.; Bulmer, D.; Wills, C.; Henrissat, B.; Gray, J. (2018). The human gut microbe Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron encodes the founder member of a novel glycosaminoglycan-degrading polysaccharide lyase family PL29. J Biol Chem. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA118.004510.
3. Muñoz-Muñoz, J.L.; Cartmell, A.; Terrapon, N.; Henrissat, B. and Gilbert, H.J. (2017) An evolutionarily distinct family of polysaccharide lyases removes rhamnose capping of complex arabinogalactan proteins. J Biol Chem. 292 (32) 13271-13283.
4. Muñoz-Muñoz, J.L.; Cartmell, A.; Terrapon, N.; Henrissat, B. and Gilbert, H.J. (2017). Unusual active-site location and catalytic apparatus in a glycoside hydrolase family. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PNAS. 114 (19) 4936-4941.
5. Cuskin F.; Lowe E.C.; Temple M.J.; Zhu Y.; Cameron E.A.; Pudlo N.A.; Porter N.T.; Urs K.; Thompson A.J.; Cartmell A.; Rogowski A.; Hamilton B.S.; Chen R.; Tolbert T.J.; Piens K.; Bracke D.; Vervecken W.; Hakki Z.; Speciale G.; Munōz-Munōz J.L.; Day A.; Peña M.J.; McLean R.; Suits M.D.; Boraston A.B.; Atherly T.; Ziemer C.J.; Williams S.J.; Davies G.J.; Abbott D.W.; Martens E.C.; Gilbert H.J. (2015). Human Gut Bacteroidetes can utilize yeast mannan through a selfish mechanism. Nature. 517 (7533) 165-169.
6. Garcia-Jimenez, A.; Garcia-Molina, F.; Teruel-Puche, J.A.; Saura-Sanmartin, A.; Garcia-Ruiz, P.A.; Ortiz-Lopez, A.; Rodriguez-Lopez, J.N.; Garcia-Canovas, F.; Munoz-Munoz, J. (2018). Catalysis and inhibition of tyrosinase in the presence of cinnamic acid and some of its derivatives. Int. J. Biol. Macromol. 119, 548-554.

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