From structure-function studies to high phytase crops


Phytic acid is the major source of inorganic phosphate needed for growth found in the grains, oil seeds and beans of common animal feeds. However, monogastrics cannot digest phytic acid and so feeds are commonly supplemented with engineered bacterial or fungal phytases. These enzymes hydrolyze the phytic acid, improving phosphorous bioavailability as well as reducing the negative impact of inorganic phosphorous excretion to the environment. In this project, an exciting alternative approach will be explored, that of developing new crop lines with high intrinsic phytase activity.

A PhD research studentship is available in the groups of Drs Andrew Hemmings (School of Chemistry), Professor Wendy Harwoood (John Innes Centre) and Charles Brearley (School of Biological Sciences) to generate new high phytase cereal crops. To achieve this the successful candidate will play a central role in attempts to engineer the catalytic and physiochemical properties of purple acid phytases and use these in the generation of gene edited high phytase crops. To achieve this they will receive training in modern methods of enzyme engineering, molecular and structural biology, and plant gene editing. The research will make extensive use of facilities at UEA including the Centre for Structural and Molecular Biochemistry (CMSB) and the crop transformation and genome editing resources of the John Innes Centre.

Suitably qualified individuals will have a strong interest in protein chemistry and/or bioanalytical science and will hold, or expect to hold, an upper second or first class honours undergraduate or Masters degree from any of a range of disciplines including, but not restricted to, biochemistry, biological chemistry and biological sciences.