Exploring biological nanoparticle stability

Supervisors: Dr Louise Horsfall, Dr David Clarke

Project Description:

Morganella sp. has been shown to synthesise elemental metal nanoparticles [1], which could be used in applications such as antimicrobials and catalysts. Copper nanoparticle biosynthesis is a result of the bacteria’s heavy metal resistance pathway that transforms the copper ions into an inert form, minimising their interaction with the host cells [2]. The nanoparticles produced are stable for months, meaning that the bacteria must also produce a biological stabilisation factor, which has yet to be identified.

In this PhD project the student will examine the biogenic nanoparticles produced by Morganella psychrotolerans and identify the stabilisation factor. The student will use mass spectrometry and knock out studies to confirm the molecule(s) or process responsible. Once identified, it is hoped that the biological stabilisation factor can be manipulated to act as a handle for the selective removal of nanoparticles, simplifying current isolation methods.

The student will receive training in analytical chemistry, molecular biology and biochemistry, with an emphasis on synthetic biology approaches for the redesign of the stabilisation factor for improved nanoparticle isolation. The work in this project will engineer a route by which nanoparticles can be isolated from industrial waste in a cost effective manner, and therefore support both bioremediation and resource recovery [3].


[1] Pantidos N, Edmundson MC, and Horsfall LE. (2018) Room-temperature bio-production, isolation and anti-microbial properties of stable elemental copper nanoparticles. New Biotechnology 40(Pt B): 275-281.
[2] Ramanathan R, Field MR, et al. (2013) Aqueous phase synthesis of copper nanoparticles: a link between heavy metal resistance and nanoparticle synthesis ability in bacterial systems. Nanoscale 5(6): 2300-2306.
[3] Cueva M and Horsfall LE. (2017) The contribution of microbially-produced nanoparticles to sustainable development goals. Microbial Biotechnology 10(5): 1212-1215.

If you wish to apply for this project, please go to this link.