PhD position on the metabolic regulation of isoprenoid production in plants and microbes

The Department of Biochemistry (Head: Prof. Jonathan Gershenzon) at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany is offering a position on the metabolic regulation and engineering of isoprenoid production in plants and microbes, employing the MEP pathway as a platform for isoprenoid formation.

Isoprenoids are the largest as well as most diverse class of chemical molecules synthesized in nature. Besides fulfilling vital functions in the organisms that produce them, isoprenoids have important roles in human society as flavour & fragrances, disease combating drugs, cosmetics, agrochemicals, industrial materials or chiral intermediates for chemical synthesis, many in scarce supply. While all isoprenoids are derived from the two key building blocks, isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) and dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP), nature has developed two distinct biosynthetic pathways to produce these building blocks: the well-known mevalonate (MVA) pathway and the recently discovered methylerythritol-4-phosphate (MEP) pathway. The MEP pathway is located in the plastids of higher plants and in most economically important prokaryotes. During the past 10 years many attempts at engineering the MEP pathway have been made in order to increase the supply of IPP and DMAPP for biosynthesis of valuable isoprenoids, but the results have been disappointing. The lack of success is often attributed to our lack of knowledge on how the MEP pathway is controlled. We are therefore investigating the control of the MEP pathway at the biochemical level using flux analysis techniques. Such an approach should lead to new insights on how the flux through this important biosynthetic pathway is controlled which will ultimately lead to improved metabolic engineering strategies for producing economically important natural isoprenoid compounds.

We are seeking an enthusiastic PhD student with strong interests in biochemistry, molecular biology or plant physiology. Applicants should have a firm background in one of the following fields: biochemistry, molecular biology, plant physiology, microbial physiology or analytical chemistry. A mathematical biology or system biology background and skills will be considered as a plus. The candidate will work in a team employing multiple disciplines ranging from biochemistry, microbiology and plant physiology to mathematical biology.

The Max Plank Institute for Chemical Ecology provides excellent scientific support and state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. The successful candidate will receive a PhD fellowship. The position is available immediately and is open until filled.

Please send your application (preferably by email) including CV, statement of research interests, and two reference letters to:

Dr. Louwrance Wright, Ph.D.
Department of Biochemistry
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
Hans-Knöll-Straße 8
D-07745 Jena
E-Mail: lwright [at]