Discovering how microbes and minerals interact during biological metal respiration (CLARKE_U18DTP)

University of East Anglia
October 04 2017
Life Sciences, Biology
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

In many lake and marine sediments bacteria can respond to oxygen limiting conditions by using solid minerals and metals as electron acceptors. Unlike most metabolic reactions, this reduction of extracellular mineral substrates must take place outside the cell. This requires electrons generated inside the cell cytoplasm to move across the outer membrane and into the extracellular mineral. The model organism Shewanella oneidensis assembles electron channels in the outer membrane that all electrons to flow through a series of cytochrome proteins onto the cell exterior. The electrons accumulate on the cell surface in exposed cytochromes that, by an unknown mechanism, pass the electrons to mineral substrates.

Electron transfer between cytochrome and mineral involves organic flavin molecules, but it is not clear if these are prosthetic cytochrome cofactors, or transient electron shuttles between microbe and mineral. This PhD will uncover the role of flavins in this electron exchange and so determine the mechanism of mineral reduction in Shewanella. From the onset of the project conditions have been found where cytochromes bind flavin tightly. The student will use a range of cellular labeling methods to determine whether these conditions occur in Shewanella under physiologically relevant conditions. The student will also purify the flavin bound form of the cytochrome and use a range of structural and spectroscopic techniques, including fluorescence and X-ray crystallography, to determine how the flavin bound cytochrome differs from the flavin-free form. By combing both microbiological and biochemical experiments the student will find how Shewanella is capable of reducing minerals.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition. Candidates will be interviewed on either the 9th, 10th or 11th January 2018.

The Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4 year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP students undertake a three month professional internship (PIPS) during their study. The internship offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

For further information and to apply, please visit our website:

Funding notes

Full Studentships cover a stipend (RCUK rate: £14,553pa - 2017/8), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate, and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships, which when combined will equal a full studentship. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements. For funding eligibility guidance, please visit our website:


This job comes from a partnership with Science Magazine and Euraxess

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