Protein turnover to measure the role of degradation in the costs of cell function and the acclimation of plants to environments

Measuring and fine tuning plant cellular function for greater energy efficiency

The protein content of plant cells is constantly being updated. This process is driven by the opposing actions of protein degradation, which defines the half-life of each polypeptide, and protein synthesis.

Analysis of the steady state proteome of cells by mass spectrometry hides this very important aspect of understanding what is happening in protein networks. Namely, we can’t answer: how long ago did the cell make that protein and how rapidly is the steady state protein abundance that we see turning over?

A different kind of analysis allow us to build a detailed picture of protein complex assembly, map damage during stress and disease and even interpret changes in gene expression by following protein turnover. Stable-isotope labelling and mass spectrometry are the tools to allow us to directly assess the turnover rate for different proteins of interest.

This project will consider which features of proteins are responsible for their degradation rates and build evidence for ‘how to change’ protein turnover rates using functional assays for different proteins of interest, isolation of newly synthesised proteins using click chemistry strategies and plant mutants in degradation processes.

For more background information, see the suggested readings below.

Suggested readings

Research team leader: Professor Harvey Millar

I am a protein biochemist focused on plant biology in the School of Molecular Sciences. I am the Director of the ARC Centre of Excellent in Plant Energy Biology. My research aims to understand the role respiration plays in the primary carbon and nitrogen metabolism of plants and their response to oxidative stress, and the dynamics of the plant proteome under limiting conditions.

How to apply

Interested in becoming part of this project? Complete the following steps to submit your expression of interest:

Step 1 - Check criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Step 2 - Submit enquiry to research team leader

Step 3 - Lodge application

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, you should be in a position to proceed to the next step of the UWA application process: Lodge an application. Different application procedures apply to domestic and international students.


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

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