Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Doctoral Training Programme
   
   
  

Fungal Sex for Strain Improvement in Biotechnology

 

Lab rotation project description

Fungi   are used in biotechnology for the production of a variety of valuable   products including antibiotics, statins, enzymes, and foodstuffs. The overall   PhD aims to exploit knowledge of fungal sexual reproduction to allow the   development of novel and improved strains of fungi for the food,   pharmaceutical, and industrial biotechnology sectors. In order to facilitate   this work molecular biology techniques are being used to determine genetic   mechanisms controlling sexual development so that these can be used to   enhance sexual reproduction in species of economic importance.
    

Specific lab rotation work will involve:
(1) Working with species where a sexual cycle is known, to set up sexual   crosses and then select offspring.
(2) The sexual progeny will then be screened by biochemical techniques for   beneficial attributes such as increased antibiotic production and better   flavours for fungal food products, to evaluate the success of sex.  (3) Working with species where a sexual stage has not yet been induced. A   combination of bioinformatic analysis and GM approaches will be used to see   if early stages of sexual development can be induced.  
    
The lab rotation will offer training in classical microbiology procedures,   biochemical screening, bioinformatic/genomic and molecular-genetic   experimental work, and associated data analysis and computing skills. 

Fact file

Research theme

IBB

Location

Life Sciences

Rotation

LR2 and LR3

Contact

2nd supervisor


BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnerships
 

Linked PhD Project Outline

Fungi are used in the biotechnology sectors for the production of a wide   variety of valuable products. These include pharmaceuticals such as   antibiotics and statins, other metabolites and enzymes, and various   foodstuffs. This project aims to exploit knowledge of fungal sexual   reproduction to allow the development of novel and improved strains of fungi   for the food, pharmaceutical, and industrial biotechnology sectors. 

Various methods are currently available to produce novel and improved fungal strains including classical mutagenesis, sampling from nature, and the   use of genetic manipulation (GM) techniques. These have proved useful but each has limitations. Instead, recent discoveries of sexual cycles in some key fungal species used in biotechnology has meant that fungal sexual reproduction now offers an exciting new method for generating novel and improved strains. For example it might be possible to cross different strains with desirable attributes to select offspring with combinations of the desired attributes. In parallel, the sexual cycle produces considerable genetic variation and so it might be   possible to generate certain offspring with entirely new and unexpectedly   beneficial features. Finally, the sexual cycle can be used as a tool to determine the genetic basis of traits of industrial interest. However, a sexual cycle still has to be discovered in some key Aspergillus and Penicilllium species.

Work is currently in progress to see if the fungal sexual cycle can be used   to produce novel strains of fungi with improved antibiotic, metabolite and   flavour volatile production. In order to facilitate this work molecular   biology techniques (GM, genomics, RNAseq) are also being used to determine   the genetic mechanisms controlling sexual development so that these can be   used to enhance sexual reproduction in species of economic importance   including Aspergillus and Penicilllium species.
    
Specific PhD main aims are:
(1) Where as sexual cycle is known, to use sex to produce offspring which   can be screened for improved attributes for the biotechnology sectors e.g.   increased antibiotic production and better flavours for fungal food products.  

(2) Where as sexual cycle is known, to use the sexual cycle as a classical   genetic tool to determine the genetic basis of traits of interest such as   metabolite and flavour production.

(3) To perform bioinformatic, genomic and RNA seq analysis to identify   genes controlling fungal sexual development to see if these can be   manipulated to increase levels of sexual reproduction. This might involve   classical GM and recent CRISPR technologies.

(4) Where as sexual cycle is not known, to use a knowledge of fungal sex to   see if sexual reproduction can be induced. This will involve both classical   microbiological and modern GM techniques.
    
Research training
The PhD will offer training in classical microbiology procedures,   biochemical screening, bioinformatic/genomic and molecular-genetic   experimental work, and associated data analysis and computing skills. A range   of biochemical extraction procedures will be used to identify possible   metabolites of interest and to screen for improved industrial strains. This   will include the use of a variety of chromatographic techniques e.g. GC-MS   and HPLC.

 

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Doctoral Training Programme

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Tel: +44 (0) 115 8466946
Email: bbdtp@nottingham.ac.uk