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Cyanobaterial photoregulatory mechanisms, pigmentation varieties and their evolutionary significance


The red-shifted chlorophylls contain an extra formyl group compared to chlorophyll a in cyanobacteria. The oxygen atom in the formyl group requires oxygen molecules as one important reactant. Understanding the light regulatory mechanism for biosynthesis of red-shifted chlorophylls will enhance our knowledge of oxygenic photosynthesis driven by red-shifted  chlorophylls and will extend the potential application of red-shifted chlorophylls.


Professor Min Chen.

Research location

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Program type



Photosynthesis is the most important reaction on earth. Oxygenic photosynthesis evolved ~ 3 billion years ago, and is responsible for increasing/maintaining the free oxygen level in atmosphere/biosphere. Oxygen is the key element for evolving the advanced life forms as what we have today. Cyanobacteria are the only bacteria that can use light energy for splitting water and evolving oxygen. They have great capability to adapt to different environments through changing the composition of pigmentation and metabolic pathways. This project will focus on understanding the photoregulatory mechanism in cyanobacteria. Two main elements: Light and oxygen levels, play important roles for photoregulatory strategies.  Characterisation of light-sensory processes in cynaobacteria in response to different oxygen levels will provide us the knowledge basis for identifying the photoregulatory mechanism of pigmentation and photopigment biosynthesis.

The approaches for this project include gene modification technology, transcriptional regulation and the biochemical/biophysical characterisation, liquid chromatographic and spectral analysis.

Additional information

• Current PhD/Hons topics being undertaken at the location or with the supervisors

Three PhD Projects are being undertaken in A/Prof Chen’s laboratory.
1. Light-harvesting systems in Chromera velia
2. Function of antenna systems in a newly isolated cyanobacterium containing chlorophyll f
3. Global protein analysis of cyanobacterium Acaryochloris marina under various oxygen-stressed conditions.

• Is the opportunity also available for Honours students?

 Yes, one-year potential projects are available for honours students. Details please contact A/Prof Min Chen (

• Techniques, methodologies, research approaches, technologies, etc., employed by the project - e.g., electron microscopy, textual analysis, etc.

Pigment and pigment-bound protein analyses are performed by using a UV/Vis spectrophotometer, fluorescence spectrophotometer and other molecular spectral analysis methods.

General protein isolation and characteristic methods, such as electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE, IEF, Western Blotting, Native electrophoresis, 2-D gel, peptide mass fingerprinting and other proteomic analysis.

Chromatographic analysis such as HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography), FPLC (Fast protein liquid chromatography), gel filtration and ion-exchanging columns for proteins and protein-complexes purification.

DNA, RNA isolation, PCR (DNA as templates) and RT-PCR (RNA as templates), Gene transformation and functional studies in vitro.

General biochemical and molecular biological experiences are required for potential students who want to study inthe laboratory. Hons A or similar experiences is required.

• Scholarships/funding available
ARC Centre of Excellent for Translational Photosynthesis (2014-2020)
Biosynthesis of chlorophylls (ARC Future Fellow, 2013-2016)
ARC Discovery Project (2012-2014)

HDR Inherent Requirements
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1865

Other opportunities with Professor Min Chen