Royal Society-funded PhD student
I did my undergraduate and my first Master’s degree in Agrobiology/Agricultural Engineering at the Mendel University, Brno, Czech Republic and my second Master’s degree in Biology and Chemistry of Soil and Water/Earth and Environment at the Wageningen University, the Netherlands.
Ammonia oxidising archaea (AOA) are widespread organisms present in terrestrial and marine environments. They are responsible for the first step of nitrification, the oxidation of ammonia to nitrite. This way they contribute to the global nitrogen biogeochemical cycle and affect the production of greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, nitrate leaching and eutrophication of water bodies. Ammonia monooxygenase (AMO) is the key enzyme in ammonia oxidation, catalysing the oxidation of ammonia to hydroxylamine. This enzyme is very similar to particulate methane monooxygenase, an enzyme found in methanotrophs, which oxidises methane to methanol. Bacterial AMO is able to use methane as an alternative substrate, and it is likely that archaeal AMO can oxidise methane too but virtually nothing is known about the role of AOA in methane oxidation. Such a crosstalk between two major biogeochemical cycles, carbon and nitrogen, driven by the AOA would have significant environmental consequences. AOA could help to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions with methane consumption and consequent inhibition of nitrous oxide production.
The archaeal AMO is believed to be a copper-dependent enzyme. AOA are thought to have a copper-dependent respiratory chain and their genomes encode for a large number of putative copper-containing proteins. Despite these predictions and the important consequences they may have, not much is known about the role of copper in the metabolism of soil AOA.
The overarching aim of my PhD is to reveal novel insights into the function of archaeal AMO and to determine the environmental significance of these findings. Specifically, I want to test if methane is oxidised by the ammonia monooxygenase and whether carbon obtained through this pathway is assimilated by AOA. Consequently, I intend to determine the copper requirements of selected terrestrial AOA strains and define which steps in nitrification are copper dependent. Studying physiological changes of AOA grown under various copper concentration conditions, I want to elucidate the mechanisms of adaptation strategies in heterogeneous soil environment.
School of Biological Sciences
University of East Anglia
Norwich Research Park
Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK