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02 / 10 / 2017

Synthetic Biology for Delivering Renewable Fuels with Shewanella (BUTT_U18DTP)

how to apply

Species of the Shewanella genus are non-photosynthetic proteobacteria notable for their ability to exchange electrons between their intracellular and extracellular environments. This behaviour attracts much interest for biotechnology where electricity production is coupled to waste-water remediation when electrons from the intracellular oxidation of organic matter are passed to the anode of a microbial fuel cell. Furthermore, the selective production of a reduced product can be driven by electrons delivered to the interior of bacteria by an electrode poised at an appropriate voltage for it to serve as a cathode.

By purifying and characterising proteins from the outer membrane of the model organism Shewanella oneidensis, the supervisors of this project have contributed to revealing the mechanism of electron transfer across this bacterium's electrically insulating lipid bilayer. This electron transfer is performed by tightly bound complexes formed of three proteins; two cytochromes and a membrane-spanning porin. Inspired by photosynthesis, this project will build on recent advances in the supervisors' laboratories and use novel synthetic biology to attach light-absorbing molecules to the extracellular surface of the porin:cytochrome complexes allowing the bacteria to perform the direct conversion of solar energy to renewable fuels.

This project will provide training in molecular biology, protein engineering, protein chemistry, photochemistry, microbial growth, protein purification, gas chromatography and NMR spectroscopy. The successful applicant will perform their research within the vibrant Centre for Molecular and Spectroscopic Biochemistry under the supervision of Professor Julea Butt, Dr Tom Clarke and Professor Steve Meech.