Professor Jon Todd (School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia)
Dr Frances Hopkins (Plymouth Marine Laboratory)
Billions of tonnes of the organosulfur compound dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) are made each year by marine algae, corals and bacteria, and a number of plant species also make this important molecule. DMSP is a key marine nutrient pivotal in global sulfur cycling, as it is the main precursor of the climate-active gas dimethylsulfide (DMS), which gives the seaside its distinctive smell. Despite the role of DMSP being well established as an anti-stress molecule in marine algae and bacteria, its role in plants remains unknown. Indeed, only some plants have been shown to produce DMSP, including the saltmarsh cordgrass Spartina, which is likely the major DMSP producer in this environment. Saltmarshes are global hotspots for DMSP/DMS production, so determining the contribution played by plants in this production is key for understanding sulfur cycling in the natural environment.
In this project, we will explore how and why plants produce DMSP. The student will evaluate DMSP production in plants sampled from different environments and grown under controlled experimental conditions, using established gas chromatography techniques. The student will also build on our recent work identifying DMSP synthesis genes and test how expression of these genes and enzyme function is regulated in plants by the natural environment. This multi-disciplinary project will offer the student excellent training opportunities in plant biology, environmental sampling, bioinformatics, and the molecular biology and biochemistry of DMSP/DMS. Furthermore, the student will receive training in data analysis and manuscript preparation, whilst also having regular opportunities to present their work at national and international meetings.
We are looking for a highly motivated applicant with strong interests in plant biology, molecular biology, biochemistry and the natural environment, and who can thrive in a multi-disciplinary research laboratory. Candidates should have a background in biological or environmental sciences, and require a Bachelor degree.