University of Hong Kong Featured PhD Programmes
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre Featured PhD Programmes
University of Exeter Featured PhD Programmes

WR DTP project: How bacteria change their coat: shedding light on the acylation of complex surface carbohydrates like LPS

Department of Biology

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
Dr M van der Woude , Prof G H Thomas No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
York United Kingdom Biochemistry Bioinformatics Microbiology Molecular Biology Structural Biology

About the Project

Bacteria live in diverse and changing environments and need a range of survival strategies. The bacterial surface is its interface with the environment and is crucial for success since it defines bacterial interaction with its biotic and abiotic environment. Complex sugars (glycopolymers) form a significant component of the surfaces, and we are just beginning to unravel the variable compositions and how this affects bacterial success, of pathogens and non-pathogens alike. Even minor changes (modifications), e.g. acetylation to the LPS, can be critical, for example by preventing phage or antibody attachment. A large family of membrane proteins (AT3) acylate many extracytoplasmic glycopolymers, targeting LPS, capsule, peptidoglycan, antibiotics and periplasmic glucans. We have begun to unravel how these proteins work (DOI: 10.1128/mBio.01364-20) and are keen to expand our limited, understanding. One burning question, for example, is why some proteins function with just the AT3 domain whereas others require an additional enzymatic domain, even among proteins in Salmonella that modify LPS. In this project amenable systems representing a range of modifications and substrates will be identified and analysed to learn the molecular rules of carbohydrate modification and gain further insight into strategies of bacterial survival. The project will use as needed bioinformatics, bacterial genetics, molecular biology, and biochemical and biophysical approaches with the Technology Facility facilitating use of cutting edge technologies. The supervisors bring complementary expertise to the project. A successful candidate will be excited to work in this area and preferably have a background in microbiology / biochemistry.
You will gain subject specific and transferable skills and knowledge through formal and informal training provided by the project’s supervisors, the Department/University and the programme. The local research and the PhD student community provide a stimulating and supportive environment with seminars, lab meetings, internal research conferences, opportunities for outreach, teaching and social activities.

The White Rose DTP in Mechanistic Biology is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Funding Notes

This project is part of the BBSRC WR DTP in Mechanistic Biology. Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 4 years. The funding includes:
Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,285 for 2020/21)
UK tuition fees (£4,473 for 2021/22)
Research support and training charges (RSTC)
We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and 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.


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. If English is not your first language, you will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for your country. Please check our website:

START DATE: 1st October 2021

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2021
All rights reserved.