Project Code: 10385912
Faculty: Liggins Institute
Department: Liggins Institute
Main Supervisor: Dr Elizabeth McKenzie (emck002)
Application open date: 31 Aug 2017
Application deadline: 01 Dec 2017
Enrolment information: NZ Citizens, NZ Permanent Residents, International
The human gut teems with a vast ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, viruses, archaea and invertebrates – the gut microbiome. Current research is focused on bacteria, yet symbiotic fungi – the mycobiome – represents a significant biomass that potentially plays a critical role in nutrition and immunity. The few studies that exist on gut fungi reveal striking differences between healthy and obese individuals. Faecal metabolite profiling of individuals predisposed to diabetes and obesity also showed altered methylketones, fatty acids and elevated levels of butyrolactone - a microbial signalling compound. Methylketones are metabolites produced by fungally mediated fatty acid metabolism in cultured foods like cheese. However, this process has not yet been demonstrated in humans.
Using radioisotope labelling and Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation Time of Flight Imaging Mass Spectrometry, this multidisciplinary study will identify gut fungi and their metabolites, and will shed light on how they are distributed in faeces and what fungal structures produce metabolites. This could reveal a major microbially mediated pathway for metabolism of fatty acids in humans. Understanding the role of the mycobiome in the gut can help uncover the processes leading to metabolic dysregulation, which will aid the development of treatment interventions and preventive measures.
B+ average or better in final year of undergraduate degree.
Some experience with biochemistry/organic chemistry desirable.
OK working with human faeces.
Curious, creative thinker
Conscientious, attention to detail
1. Develop a method for real-time visualisation of faecal fungi and their metabolites using
2. Identify faecal fungi and their metabolites using mass spectrometry and obtain images of fungi and their metabolites in both faeces and faecal cultures;
3. Isolate fungal cultures from faeces and use isotopic labelling of nutrients to investigate
origin of methylketones;
4. Determine the effect of γ-butyrolactone on growth habit and/or ratios of fatty acids to methylketones.
This Project is funded by an FRDF grant and starts as soon as a suitable candidate is found.