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Evolutionary relationships of aerobic and anaerobic metabolic reactions


The generation of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere by oxygenic photosynthesis was the most important environmental event to affect both biology and geology. Accumulation of molecular oxygen in the atmosphere fundamentally changed the redox balance on Earth, permitted the development of aerobic metabolism, and led to development of advanced life forms. Initially, anaerobic processes were forced to adapt from a reductive to an oxidative environment, which allowed organisms both to detoxify and to use oxygen as a metabolic substrate, and was a fundamental adaptive solution in the history of life that has persisted until the present.. Some predominately aerobic organisms can still use anaerobic steps under certain conditions. Those pathways, including mixed aerobic and anaerobic steps, represent evolutionary convergence, i.e. anaerobic pathways have been ‘updated’ over time by replacement with more efficient aerobic versions.


Professor Min Chen.

Research location

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Program type



Nitrogen fixation and photosynthesis are the two ancient metabolic processes, which are essential reactions driving global biogeochemical cycles. Photosystem II (PSII) produces molecular oxygen (O2), while nitrogenase is inhibited by O2. Despite this antagonistic relationship between the two processes, they co-exist and function simultaneously in many cyanobacteria. Therefore, cyanobacteria offer great opportunities for exploring the evolutionary relationship between aerobic and anaerobic metabolic reactions.

Photosystems comprise of multi units. They are dynamically changed in responses to different environments (different light conditions and differnet oxygen levels). The project will focus on the co-existence of these two fundamental processes and their metabolic transition.

The project will involve DAN/RNA sequence analysis for identifying the putative functional genes in related to the aerobic/anaerobic metabolic reactions. Further molecular and biochemical analysis will be performed for characterizing the metabolic reaction in related to the shifted environments.

Additional information

•    Is the opportunity also available for Honours students?
Yes, one-year potential projects are available for honours students. Details please contact Dr Min Chen (

•    Techniques, methodologies, research approaches, technologies, etc., employed by the project - e.g., electron microscopy, textual analysis, etc.
General protein isolation and characteristic methods, such as electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE, IEF, Native electrophoresis, 2-D gel, peptide mass finger printing and other proteomic analysis. Chromagraphic anaylssis such as HPLC (high-performance liquid chromagraphy), FPLC (Fast protein liquid chromagraphy), gel filtration and ion-exchanging columns for sample purification. Centrifugation and gradient centrifugation will use to obtain different size of protein complexes.
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.

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.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 776

Other opportunities with Professor Min Chen