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White Rose BBSRC DTP studentship: Deciphering the glycocode: application of synthetic probes to study protein-carbohydrate interactions


   Faculty of Biological Sciences


Leeds United Kingdom Structural Biology

About the Project

All living cells are covered in a coating of complex carbohydrates (glycans) that are attached to lipids and proteins. Specific glycolipids play important roles in controlling cell differentiation, ion transport and cell signaling. However, many viruses, bacteria and protein toxins also exploit these glycans to stick to and enter healthy cells. Glycans can often have multiple binding partners and thus multiple biological roles, which makes understanding the rules of glycobiology (the so-called glycocode) challenging.

In this project we will use enzymes to construct synthetic analogues of an important cell surface glycolipid: ganglioside GM1. We will investigate the effects of selective modification of its hydroxyl groups on its ability to bind to two important sugar-binding proteins (lectins) – galectin-1 and cholera toxin B-subunit. By understanding the roles of each hydroxyl group in the complex we will derive rules for making selective probes that can distinguish between different lectins.

The project will involve a combination of chemical and biochemical methods to produce novel oligosaccharides and glycolipids. You will learn to use biophysical methods including isothermal titration calorimetry to measure the thermodynamics of ligand binding, and X-ray crystallography to determine the structures of complexes to rationalise changes in binding and help decipher the glycocode.

Funding Note

This studentship is part of the BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology. (https://www.whiterose-mechanisticbiology-dtp.ac.uk/). Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 4 years. The funding includes:

Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,609 for 2021/22 starts. Awards increase every year, typically with inflation).

UK tuition fees (Around £4,500 per year)

Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG)

Conference and Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) allowances

We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from inside and outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.

Not all projects will be funded; the DTP will appoint a limited number of candidates via a competitive process.

How to apply

Applicants should complete an online application form and attach the following documentation to support their application. 

  • a full academic CV
  • degree certificate and transcripts of marks
  • Evidence that you meet the University's minimum English language requirements (if applicable).

To help us identify that you are applying for this studentship project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;

  • Select PhD in Biological Sciences as your programme of study
  • Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert
  • For source of funding please state you are applying for a White Rose BBSRC DTP funded studentship

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