Sugar coating it: Investigating the rare carbohydrates covering Clostridia

FUNDING: 9 weeks (full time, 37 hrs per week, £10.57 per hour, £690 consumables)
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Dr. Emily Flack, Biology, York

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Sugars are the most abundant biomolecule on earth and cover the surface of every cell, crucial in cell-cell recognition, immunological response, and bacterial virulence. One area of glycoscience which remains understudied are the sugars covering Clostridia. We have putatively identified unique carbohydrate modifications to the flagella of pathogenic Clostridia. Intriguingly, these sugars distinguish pathogenic from probiotic strains. The student would use recombinant protein production and enzyme activity assays to enable further elucidation of the functions of putatively assigned biosynthetic genes, confirming how these sugars are synthesised and assembled onto the cell surface. Additionally, Clostridia will be cultured to characterise cell surface glycosylation and probe the biological implications. The University of York has an worldwide reputation in glycobiology, catalysed through extensive collaborations between the Biology and Chemistry departments, which will be drawn upon throughout this project. Experiments will be lab based but may begin by drawing upon bioinformatic data. Within the lab, the successful candidate will receive relevant training in biochemical, microbiological, and analytical chemistry techniques. Students will be expected to present their findings orally at a research day in York in September 2023.