PhD studentship: Deciphering the intimate relationship between mucin glycosylation and gut bacteria

Applications Close: 21 June 2019

Contract Length: 48 months

Host institution: Quadram Institute Bioscience (UK)

Main supervisor: Prof. Nathalie Juge

Co-supervisor(s): Dr. Tom Wennekes (Utrecht University, the Netherlands), Prof. Antonio Molinaro (University of Naples Federico II, Italy)

PhD duration: 48 months

Desired start: September 2019

ESR2 PhD project:  Deciphering the intimate relationship between mucin glycosylation and gut bacteria

Background: Beneficial interactions between the host and the gut microbiome are essential for the establishment and maintenance of gut health. The epithelium lining the gastrointestinal tract provides a habitat to gut microbes that can use mucin glycans as adhesion sites or source of nutrients. An alteration in mucin glycosylation is associated with a dysbiosis of the gut microbiota and the development of colitis. It is therefore important to determine the mechanisms underpinning gut bacteria-host interactions at the mucosal surface so be able to develop strategies to restore gut homeostasis.

Project description: In this project, you will investigate the interaction between bacteria and mucins by profiling native mucin O-glycan composition from various cell lines and tissues in relation to microbiota composition and use advanced labelling approaches to visualize mucin O-glycans fluorescently in vitro (cell lines) or in vivo (mouse models). During your PhD project you will receive training and acquire expertise in molecular microbiology (anaerobic growth assays, co-cultures; in vitro colon fermentation), mucin purification, mass spectrometry-based glycomics (MALDI-ToF MS & ToF/ToF-MS), experience in animal handling and tissue processing, advanced bioimaging techniques (fluorescence and confocal microscopy, imaging flow cytometry). mammalian cell and tissue culture. Training will embrace research practice and theory, management, communication (to scientific and lay audiences), intellectual property, teamwork and technical writing. The student will present his/her work to internal seminars and to relevant International meetings. The possible commercial issues relating to the impact of this research on human health will be highlighted and the student will be encouraged to participate into outreach activities.

Planned secondments: 1) Utrecht University (3 months); evaluation of bacterial species on mucin O-glycan arrays/beads 2) University of Naples Federico II (2 months): evaluation of cell surface polysaccharides from major mucin-degraders; Company Glycom (1 month): gain industrial experience on pipeline for oligosaccharide production.

Requirements for all candidates: In accordance with the very strict EC Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions (MSCA) Sweet Crosstalk ITN rules you must meet the following two eligibility criteria for your ESR/PhD position(s) of interest (so, please do not respond if you are not eligible):

Eligibility criteria 1: Candidates did not reside or carry out their main activity (e.g. reside, work, studies) in the country of the PhD host institution for more than 12 months during the 3 years immediately prior to project’s application deadline (time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention, compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account).

Eligibility criteria 2: Candidates are in the first four years of their research careers upon the starting date of their appointment to an ESR/PhD position (full-time equivalent research experience, measured from the date when a researcher obtained the degree entitling him or her to embark on a doctorate) and have not been awarded a doctoral (PhD) degree.

Please read the requirements for candidates and application procedure details at:

For more information on this ESR vacancy contact:

This is one of 15 Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher (PhD) positions within the Sweet Crosstalk Network on understanding the molecular-level role of glycans at the human mucosa–microbiota interface

Sweet Crosstalk is a multidisciplinary European Training Network built to address the challenge of understanding, at a molecular level, how glycans are involved at the human mucosa–microbiota interface, and how this correlates with human well-being. The research strategy of the Sweet Crosstalk programme focuses on optimal synergy between chemistry and biology. In the network the expertise ranges from chemical synthesis, biochemistry, structural biology to microbiology and cell biology.