Optogenetics in green cell factories

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: College of Medical, Veterinary, Life Sci


Studentship strategic priority area:Bioenergy and Industrial Biotechnology
Keywords: Industrial Biotechnology, photobiology, synthetic biology, cyanobacteria

The aim of this project is to develop the necessary molecular tools and photo-bioreactor (PBR) technology to enable optogenetics in photosynthetic cell cultures.

Optogenetics describes the ability to control biological processes through light signals. The technology is increasingly used in medicine and biotechnology to determine the timing of gene expression. The basic control unit is typically a two-component system consisting of a photo-receptor and an effector domain. A wavelength-specific conformational change of the receptor domain activates the effector which in turn activates a target protein that promotes binding of a transcription factor to the gene promoter thus inducing gene expression. Several of these systems have already been generated and used to drive the expression of transgenes in E. coli, yeast or mammalian cells. The purpose of this project is to enable optogenetics in micro-algal cultures, in particular cyanobacterial model strains. Due to their photosynthetic carbon fixation capability they have great potential for Industrial Biotechnology (IB) in a low-carbon economy. They also possess the basic metabolic machinery to synthesise a wide range of pigments.
The project is funded under the IBioIC CTP. It builds on a successful collaboration between the Amtmann group at the University of Glasgow and the company Xanthella Ltd. established by an IBioIC/MVLS Industrial Partnership PhD studentship (2016-2020), This previous work resulted in a prototype PBR that is equipped with light panels containing 5 individually controllable LEDs. The PBR can already be used to boost naturally wavelength-dependent pigment production in diverse microalgae. We have also cloned and functionally characterised a new cyanobacterial photoreceptor which acts as a yellow/blue switch. This PhD project will continue the successful collaboration with Xanthella to exploit and further develop both the PBR and the photoreceptors for synthetic biology and optogenetics applications.
A broad skills development and training programme is offered both through the College of MVLS at University of Glasgow and through the IBioIC CTP. The experimental programme of the project offers specific training opportunities in molecular biology, photobiology and optics technology. The supervisory team have outstanding expertise in these areas. Through direct collaboration with industry the student will gain insight into both fundamental biology and commercial applications of biology.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/V509279/1 30/09/2020 29/09/2024
2455765 Studentship BB/V509279/1 30/09/2020 29/09/2024