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How do infant gut microbes use N-glycans from breast milk as a nutrient source?

Primary Supervisor: Dr Lucy Crouch, School of Life Sciences

Secondary supervisor: TBC

PhD project title: How do infant gut microbes use N-glycans from breast milk as a nutrient source?

University of Registration: University of Birmingham

Project outline:

The human gut microbiota has a mutualists relationship with the host, creating a profound but poorly understood impact of host health, development, and disease. Glycans are the main nutrient source for the gut microbiota and these can come from dietary fibre of human glycoproteins, for example. Species of Bifidobacterium are the dominant bacteria found in an infant’s gut and are critical to the development of a healthy gut. Breast milk contains numerous bioactive components that have evolved to specifically feed Bifidobacterium species present in an infant’s gut. This project will determine how N-glycans on breast milk proteins are used as a nutrients source by these species. A combination of techniques will be used, including: bacterial growth, glycan and sugar analysis, enzyme production, and enzyme characterisation.

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Understanding the Rules of Life: Microbiology & Structural Biology

    Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

    • Bacterial growth experiments
    • Glycan analysis
    • Gene cloning
    • Protein production
    • Enzyme characterisation

    Contact: Dr Lucy Crouch, University of Birmingham