Microbial cells are of special significance for biotechnological applications, where bacteria and yeasts are used for many biotechnological tasks, including biofuel production, synthesis of commodity chemicals, and production of industrial and biopharmaceutical proteins.
Mutagenesis is an important technique in microbial engineering whereby DNA mutations are deliberately introduced into the microorganism to produce mutant genes, proteins, and strains of bacteria. For example, the mutated gene may produce a mutated protein the properties of which, e.g. its thermostability, optimum pH and specific activity, are quite different to that of the protein produced by the original strain.
There are two main approaches, i.e., rational design and random mutagenesis. Rational design is highly useful when there is sufficient information about the gene responsible for the desired response. In other cases, random mutagenesis can provide an effective means to generate mutants with desired properties. In this approach, mutations are introduced randomly into the DNA and then screening is used to select mutants with interesting or improved properties.
Plasma mutagenesis is a novel microbial mutation breeding technology developed in recent years, which uses a combination of UV irradiation, a cocktail of reactive chemical species, mild heating and gas flow effects to induce random mutations in microorganisms.
You will use plasma mutagenesis to create a library of mutants with the aim of improving microbial growth on relevant substrates and stress resistance. You will study how plasma mutagenesis treatment affects the structure and permeability of cell wall and plasma membrane, how it induces DNA damage, including missense mutation, deletion or frameshift mutations.
You will then apply selection to isolate members with the desired function, e.g. increased production of a specific enzyme or improved temperature tolerance. You will then use transcription sequencing technologies to discover specific phenotype-genotype correlations in these mutants.
The outcomes of this study may include:
- New improved strains for a specific biotechnological application;
- Understanding of phenotype-genotype correlations in these mutants;
- Understanding of how plasma induces mutations in microorganisms.
Skills and experience
The ideal candidate would have background in cell biology, biotechnology, or chemical engineering. For a candidate with strong interest in this area and readiness to learn new skills in biology, a background in engineering, plasma physics or chemistry may be sufficient.
The candidate will be supported by a team consisting of experts in engineering and plasma sciences and biotechnology, with the necessary infrastructure fully available at QUT. The candidate will be provided with multiple opportunities to engage with experts from world-leading laboratories and industry collaborators.
You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.
Contact the supervisor for more information.