Professor Cock van Oosterhout (UEA, ENV)
Dr Glen Wheeler (The Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom)
Prof. Naihao Ye (Yellow Sea Fisheries Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences)
Diatoms are the main primary producers in polar oceans, where photosynthesis is largely limited by seasonal fluctuation in light, temperature, and the extent of sea ice. Additionally, essential trace metals such as iron and zinc play an important role in controlling the biomass of polar primary producers. Polar diatoms appear to have a particularly high demand for zinc, thereby largely determining zinc distribution throughout the global ocean. The reason for the enhanced requirement of zinc in polar diatoms remains enigmatic. However, the first genome sequences from a polar diatom and other cold-adapted algae revealed adaptive expansions of regulatory gene families (e.g. transcription factors) containing zinc-binding domains. The elevated concentrations of zinc in polar oceans may thus have aided the expansion of these regulatory genes with zinc-binding domains. As specific gene families involved in photosynthesis and carbon fixation were both co-expanded and co-expressed, it suggests that zinc plays an important role in regulating and therefore supporting photosynthetic growth in polar phytoplankton.
The main aim of this project is to produce the first molecular genetics and physiological data on the role of zinc in the adaptation of cold-adapted diatoms. The student will work in the laboratory with a cold-adapted model diatom and will apply the latest reverse genetics tools (e.g. CRISPR-Cas) in combination with sequencing (RNA/DNA) and photosynthesis measurements to characterize the role of conserved low-temperature inducible regulatory genes with zinc-binding domains (e.g. zf-MYND) that are co-regulated with photosynthesis genes. A combination of these experimental approaches will provide first insights into the role of zinc-binding domains in supporting photosynthesis in polar marine microalgae.
The student will gain skills in the latest reverse-genetics tools such as CRISPR-Cas and sequence analyses, algal cultivation, photosynthesis measurements, bioinformatics, and evolutionary biology. Training will also be provided in the field of biogeochemistry, polar ecology, and oceanography.
A Bachelor’s degree in Biological Science or equivalent. We are looking for an enthusiastic student who is excited about applying diverse techniques from the field of molecular microbiology to understand the adaptation and evolution of microalgae in polar oceans.