Current Scholarships

Azadeh Hashemi

BIC offers an excellent training environment and state-of-the-art equipment for graduate students interested in biomolecular interactions. 

Understanding protein communication networks - PhD

Senior Supervisor: Dr Jodie Johnston (University of Canterbury); Co-supervisors: Dr Ghader Bashiri and Dr Esther Bulloch (University of Auckland)

Proteins are intrinsically dynamic molecules that use the motion of their atoms to communicate binding events over long distances. In some cases, the binding of a ligand to one site on a protein influences binding and/or catalysis at a second site, a phenomenon known as protein cooperativity. Cooperative behaviour offers ways for a protein to adapt its biological function in response to changes in the environment and is a key phenomenon underpinning many biochemical and physiological processes. This Marsden funded project builds on previous work in our group on the menaquinone biosynthesis protein MenD from Mtb. In this work we managed to functionally and structurally characterise the enzyme, including capturing key covalent intermediates from the catalytic cycle1. During our work we discovered the enzyme exhibits several cooperative behaviours and the Marsden project will characterise these and define the protein communication networks that underlie that cooperativity.

Mtb (short for Mycobacterium tuberculosis) is a human pathogen responsible for the disease tuberculosis. This pathogen has a long history in humans and has been very successful in adapting to its human host, in part evading the human immune system by adopting a “persistent” phenotype. MenD is an enzyme that catalyses the first committed step in the biosynthesis of menaquinone (MQ). MQ (also called vitamin K2) is an important small molecule with a vital role in bacterial electron transport. Bacteria like Mtb need MQ for energy generation. MQ has also been linked to roles in persistence, virulence and resistance in bacteria. Understanding how the cooperative behaviours of this enzyme will help us to understand how the biosynthesis of this key vitamin is regulated in the bacteria.

What we offer and what we are looking for

The project will commence sometime during 2018 and be based at University of Canterbury, but will also involve time with co-supervisors at the University of Auckland.

This is an excellent opportunity to develop skills in molecular biology, protein expression and purification, protein biochemistry, X-ray crystallography, NMR and other biophysical protein characterisation techniques. The successful candidate will have enthusiasm and curiosity, a willingness to learn new things and to work in a multidisciplinary environment. They will have completed an Honours or Masters degree in a suitable major, including but not limited to chemistry and biochemistry subjects.

The stipend will be NZD $27,500 per year tax free for three years. Funding is also available to cover tuition fees, travel and research project consumable costs.

Applicants please email Jodie Johnston with your CV, including at least two academic referees, a statement of your research interests and your university transcripts.

Other support

There are a number of small grants and scholarships available to current postgraduates to help with research costs, travelling to conferences, or just a top up of personal money. Of particular interest to BIC postgraduate students:

Rebecca Hurrell

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