Creating Cytochrome Wires for Sustainable Biotechnology


Proteins containing chains of close-packed heme cofactors are a fascinating class of biomolecular nanowire.

Produced by bacteria these cytochrome proteins have evolved to conduct electrons over distances ranging from nanometres to tens of microns. Their properties underpin the production of green electricity by microbial fuel cells and offer exciting prospects for renewable components in emerging electronic technologies.

Inspired by these opportunities, in this interdisciplinary project you will work at the interface of biological and physical sciences to enhance the properties of cytochrome wires by equipping them with non-canonical amino acids.

The project builds on our expertise studying the structure and function of cytochrome biowires from Shewanella oneidensis. Working in an enthusiastic and supportive team you will receive training in state-of-the-art techniques for molecular biology, protein structure determination, biochemistry, spectroscopy and electrochemistry.

You will make extensive use of genetic-code expansion for the incorporation of non-canonical amino acids, purify the engineered cytochromes and learn to independently measure cytochrome conductance using dynamic electrochemistry and electrochemical scanning tunnelling microscopy.

Your studies will be supervised by Prof Julea Butt in collaboration with Dr Amit Sachdeva and Prof Tom Clarke at the University of East Anglia, and Prof Ismael Diez-Perez at King’s College London. The University of East Anglia is an internationally recognised centre of excellence for fundamental and applied studies of metalloproteins and electrogenic bacteria. It provides an outstanding training environment for postgraduate students in molecular biology, biochemistry and biophysics.

During the project you will also gain knowledge, and expertise in, synthetic biology, chemical biology, biotechnology and green chemistry.

Informal enquiries to Prof Julea Butt ( are welcome with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter.



[1] Photocatalytic Removal of the Greenhouse Gas Nitrous Oxide Reductase by Liposomal Microreactors, Piper et al (2022) Angew. Chemie. e202210572.

[2] Bespoke Biomolecular Wires for Transmembrane Electron Transfer: Spontaneous Assembly of a Functionalized Multiheme Electron Conduit. Piper et al (2021) Frontiers. Microbiol. 12, 714508.

[3] Nanosecond Heme-to-Heme Electron Transfer Rates in a Multiheme Cytochrome Nanowire Reported by a Spectrally Unique His/Met Ligated Heme. van Wonderen et al (2021) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 118, e2107939118.

[4] The Crystal Structure of a Biological Insulated Transmembrane Molecular Wire Edwards et al (2020) Cell 181, 665 [5] Direct Evidence for Heme-Assisted Solid-State Electronic Conduction in Mult-heme c-Type Cytochromes. Garg et al (2018) Chem. Sci. 9. 7304.