What determines the cell size of diatoms? From molecular mechanisms to ecology!
Full Time Funding for UK & EU Students:
6th January 2016
Diatoms contribute about 20% of total annual primary production on Earth. Thus, their photosynthetic activity produces oxygen for every 5th breath we take. Diatoms have unique silica cell walls that underpin their success. The cell walls constrain the diatom cell sizes, which can range from a few micrometers to millimetres depending on the species. The molecular mechanisms that determine the cell size in diatoms are completely unknown but fundamental to understand how climate (changes in thermal stratification) impacts the size of diatoms with consequences for global cycles of carbon and silicon. Thermal stratification, likely to become more common under climate change, favours smaller diatoms with higher surface-to-volume ratios and therefore higher nutrient uptake efficiency and slower sinking rates. To identify the molecular mechanisms underpinning the cell size in diatoms linked to their success under changing environmental conditions, we have genetically modified (GM) Thalassiosira pseudonana (Tp) to give cell lines with different cell sizes. The student will apply RNA sequencing and plasma membrane phosphoproteomics to shed light on the molecular mechanisms regulating the cell size in diatoms. Furthermore, GMTp will be characterized in comparison to wild-type Tp cultures in terms of differences in key physiological processes including nutrient uptake and storage, photosynthesis and primary metabolism. The impact of the cell size on aggregation and sinking will be studied by live-cell imaging for different GMTp and WT cell lines. The student will receive training in the areas of next-generation sequencing, basic bioinformatics, proteomics and basic cell physiology. This studentship project will be conducted in collaboration with the group of Prof. Michael Sussman (University of Wisconsin, Madison, US). Thus, the student is expected to have at least one exchange visit for several weeks to learn methods in the field of proteomics. We are looking for an applicant that is highly motivated to work on diatoms. The applicant can come from any field of biology but should be keen to learn different methods. We offer a state-of-the-art research environment that is internationally linked with leading groups in the field of molecular diatom research.
For more information and to apply, please click here.