Doctoral student in a lab

Understanding metabolism of dietary methylamines by the human gut microbiota

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Starting: 2019
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


A PhD scholarship, fully funded by Nottingham Trent University, is available working with Dr Lesley Hoyles (Director of Studies) and Dr Samantha McLean (secondary supervisor).

Human health is linked with the functioning of the gut microbiota, the populations of microbes inhabiting our gastrointestinal tract. Our gut microbiota uses compounds present in our diet as nutrient and energy sources. Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), found in high abundance in fish, is converted to trimethylamine (TMA) by bacteria in the upper gastrointestinal tract. TMA is then taken up into the bloodstream and transported to the liver, where it is converted back to TMAO by hepatic flavin-containing monooxygenases. Microbial conversion of TMAO to TMA with subsequent host conversion of TMA to TMAO is an example of a process known as metabolic retroconversion. Circulating levels of TMA and TMAO have been associated with detrimental health outcomes in humans and mice, but beneficial metabolic effects have also been demonstrated for both these compounds in animal models. Anaerobic growth and metabolism of gut-derived Enterobacteriaceae and lactic acid bacteria are significantly altered in the presence of TMAO, and lactic acid bacteria have recently been shown to degrade TMA. However, we have little understanding of the bacterial processes associated with TMAO/TMA bioconversion in the human gut or microbial metabolic pathways associated with use or bioconversions of TMAO/TMA. The successful candidate will use a multi-disciplinary approach (involving detailed phenotypic, genomic, metabolomic and transcriptomic/proteomic analyses) to determine how Enterobacteriaceae and lactic acid bacteria metabolize TMAO and TMA. This will draw upon the expertise of the supervisory team in classical (aerobic, microaerophilic and anaerobic) microbiology, molecular biology, metabolomics and computational biology.

The successful applicant will gain diverse training and support from the School of Science and Technology at Nottingham Trent University, the 2017 UK University of the Year (Times Higher Education). They will have a Bachelor’s degree in microbiology, molecular biology, biochemistry or a related field, and/or a Master’s degree in a relevant subject area. Experience in the use of the R and Python programming languages would be beneficial but not essential, as the successful candidate will be provided with full bioinformatic training and support.


Dr Lesley Hoyles

Dr Samantha McLean

Entry qualifications

Applicants for PhD or MPhil should normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree of a UK university or an equivalent qualification, or a lower second class honours degree with a master’s degree at Merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification.

Further info can be found

How to apply

How to apply

The deadline for applications is 11.59 pm (UK time) 6 May 2019.

Download an application form here.
Please make sure you take a look at our application guidance notes before making your application.

Further information on how to apply can be found on this page.

Fees and funding

This is an internally funded PhD studentship which pays Home Fees and UKRI level stipend in years 1-3.

Guidance and support

Further information on guidance and support can be found on this page.

Still need help?

Lesley Hoyles