Bacterial consumption of nitrous oxide: a major greenhouse gas (ROWLEY_UBIO16EE) Bacterial consumption of nitrous oxide: a major greenhouse gas (ROWLEY_UBIO16EE)

Primary Supervisor: Dr Gary Rowley (,

Project Description


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas and hasbeen described as the biggest single cause of ozone depletion over the Arctic. The dominant natural sources of N2O are believed to be soils and oceans, whereas anthropogenic sources mostly result from agricultural and industrial activities, the great majority of which originates from microbial conversions of the massive amounts of N-fertilisers that are used to drive agricultural productivity, which can also run off into aquatic environments. Denitrifying bacteria play key roles in the synthesis and consumption of N2O in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. Reduction of N2O to N2 is the major biological route for N2O destruction and is carried out by a copper (Cu)-dependent enzyme, NosZ. However, the upward trend in N2O emissions from both soils and aquatic environments, implies that in many microbial populations, NosZ does not carry out this critical N2O removal step in balance with the first part of the denitrification pathway.

The project:

Despite its global importance in N2O destruction, the regulation of NosZ synthesis in soil and aquatic environments is poorly understood. If we can better understand how to mitigate N2O emissions from soils, fresh, marine and waste waters, then understanding how emissions are regulated in response to these environmental variables is an essential prerequisite. Building from our recent PNAS paper (Sullivan et al, 2013) we are looking for a highly motivated student who will determine the key environmental variables that regulate nosZ transcription in cultures of model denitrifying bacteria as well as in complex soil and aquatic environments.


To study this exciting project we will employ a multi-disciplinary approach incorporating microbial physiology, functional genomics, biochemistry, and ecosystems biology.  Comprehensive training will be provided in each of these areas. Presentation of results at international conferences will be an important aspect of the training provided.


i) Sullivan, M.J. et al, Copper control of bacterial nitrous oxide emission and its impact on vitamin B12-dependent metabolism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110 (49), 19926-19931.

Deadline: 23:59 on Wednesday 6 January 2016

Start date: October 2016
Programme: PhD
Mode of Study: Full Time
Entry Requirements: Acceptable First Degree: Biochemistry, Microbiology, or similar related subject 
Minimum Entry Standard: 2:1

For further information and to apply, please visit our website: