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Name of scholarship/program

Native organisation and adaptation of bioenergetic membranes

Important description
Energy conversion is essential to the cell physiology and bioenergy production. Key cellular energy conversion processes take place in the biological membranes and involve electron transport powered by either light (photosynthesis) or chemical energy (respiration). These processes are efficiently carried out in electron transport chains that are assembled by a set of membrane complexes. The organisation and physiological regulation of the electron transport chains are fundamentally important for improving our current understanding of cellular energy metabolism and cell engineering for biofuel development.

Our recent research has discovered a promising “biological electric switch” that can regulate the electron flow in the cells. This project aims to unravel the native structure and adaptive mechanisms of electron transport membranes in a model cyanobacterium, using state-of the-art imaging techniques. The successful applicant will join a newly established programme to investigate the localisation and dynamics of key electron transport complexes, adaptation of electron transport membranes to environmental changes (light, circadian rhythm, temperature etc), and factors that determine the electron flow. Obtaining the answers to these fundamental questions will provide us new powerful strategies to optimise bioenergy conversion and facilitate the engineering of organisms suitable for enhanced biofuel production. It will also provide new ideas for studies of other biological energy conversion systems in general, for instance mitochondria and chloroplasts.

Highly motivated applicants with experience in molecular biology and biochemistry are encouraged to apply. Experience of project work in microscopy and spectroscopy would be an advantage but not a prerequisite.

The BBSRC studentship covers PhD fees at the Home/EU rate and £14,000 pa Stipend.

To apply for this full studentship, please send a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter to Dr Luning Liu (luning.liu@liverpool.ac.uk), website: http://pcwww.liv.ac.uk/~lnliu . For more information, please contact Dr Luning Liu (luning.liu@liverpool.ac.uk), Department of Structural and Chemical Biology, Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, L69 7ZB.

This project will involve molecular biology, biochemistry and cell physiology, high-resolution molecule imaging approaches, coupled with a range of spectroscopic techniques and X-ray crystallography. The student will be trained in molecular biology in cyanobacteria, the development of biochemical approaches required for the purification of biological proteins/membranes, as well as a variety of spectroscopic analysis. State-of-the-art imaging methods including atomic force microscopy, electron microscopy and confocal/TIRF fluorescence microscopy will be used to investigate the organisation and assembly of energy-converting biological membranes. This project will also involve the training of genomic and proteomic techniques, and computational modelling. Training in all aspects of the project will be provided with access to state-of-the-art infrastructure in an RAE2008 top-rated department and with collaborators in the UK, EU and US.

Eligibility and other criteria
(European/UK Students Only)
This research project is one of a number of projects at this institution. It is in competition for funding with one or more of these projects. Usually the project which receives the best applicant will be awarded the funding. The funding is available to citizens of a number of European countries (including the UK). In most cases this will include all EU nationals. However full funding may not be available to all applicants and you should read the full department and project details for further information.

Application deadline
Applications accepted all year round

Additional information, and important URL


Liu, L.N. et al. (2012) Control of electron transport routes through redox-regulated redistribution of respiratory complexes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 109: 11431-11436.
Liu, L.N. et al. (2011) Forces guiding assembly of light-harvesting complex 2 in native membranes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 108: 9455-9459.
Liu, L.N. et al. (2008) Watching the native supramolecular architecture of photosynthetic membrane in red algae: Topography of phycobilisomes, and their crowding, diverse distribution patterns. J. Biol. Chem. 283: 34946-34953.

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