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Understanding and exploiting bacterial sugar transporters for increased production of human prebiotics

Project Description

The production of prebiotic compounds like human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) is a valuable and expanding market for industrial biotechnology. Bacterial cells make and break oligosaccharides during many processes and engineered strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli can synthesize human-like HMOs in the cytoplasm. While optimizing the production of these products, it is apparent that product export is a bottleneck in production. The efflux of sugars by bacteria is poorly understood, even in model systems like E. coli, and in this project the student will identify and manipulate efflux proteins that are involved in the export of HMOs. One family of proteins known to be important are the Set efflux systems and the student will seek additional members of this family with improved properties for the process. In parallel, the student will attempt to study the structure & function of the Set proteins in more detail using vesicles, and, if possible, purify and reconstitute proteins, to examine their affinity and turnover rate for HMOs and other di- and oligo-saccharides. The student will gain a broad understanding of the molecular microbiology and biochemistry of transport proteins, in the context of a process with direct relevance to industry, but yet also fundamentally understudied in any bacterial system. While the project is based in labs at York Biology and the student forms part of the White Rose DTP iCASE Bioeconomy cohort, there are also opportunities for the student to work in Copenhagen with the iCASE partner, Glycom, during the project.

Funding Notes

This studentship is part of the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology. It is funded by BBSRC and covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (around £15,000 per year) (ii) research costs, (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate, and (iv) an additional top-up stipend to cover the costs for the industrial placement in Glycom, Denmark. The studentship is available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirement (to have been residing in the UK for at least 3 years continuously prior to the start of the PhD).


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.

Candidates invited for interview will be asked to give a 10-minute presentation on a piece of research they have carried out.

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.37

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

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