+44 (0)1603 592959 (office) / +44 (0)1603 592239 (lab)

PhD Student

Michael is a PhD student in the Murrell lab at the UEA, in collaboration with the John Innes Centre. His project is characterising the rhizosphere of wheat and pea plants through stable isotope probing, with a focus on the methylotrophs present and active in these environments. This project is funded by an ELSA/NRP studentship.

Prof J Colin Murrell – University of East Anglia
Prof Giles Oldroyd – John Innes Centre
Prof Phil Poole – University of Oxford

BSc Biology with a Year in Europe
University of York
Thesis Title: Propagation and Characterisation of Phages of Rhizobia

Project Description: Methylotrophy in the Rhizosphere

Plants exude a large amount of the carbon that they capture through photosynthesis into the soil surrounding the roots, the rhizosphere. This project aims to identify the exudate utilisers in the rhizosphere and, in keeping with the theme of the Murrell lab of C1 metabolism, my project has a focus on the methanol-utilising methylotrophs present and active in this environment. The key method for achieving this identification is stable isotope probing, a method which enables identification of active utilisers of a substrate. Stable isotope probing of the rhizosphere is achieved through pulsing 13C-CO2 to a plant, with uptake of this carbon resulting in the root exudates being labelled with 13C. This in turn leads to 13C labelling of the DNA and RNA of the microbes actively utilising this exudate carbon. These labelled (13C) nucleic acids can then be separated from unlabelled (12C) nucleic acids through buoyant density ultracentrifugation. This technique will allow identification of the microbes which are active in taking up the plant exudates, through the interrogation of the labelled nucleic acids with a range of molecular techniques. This method will be applied to study the rhizospheres of wheat and pea.

Techniques Used:
DNA Sequencing
Isolation and Characterisation of Methylotrophs
Stable Isotope Probing
Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis
Gas Chromatography

ELSA/NRP Studentship
Professional Memberships:
Society for Applied Microbiology
Society for General Microbiology
British Society of Soil Science



Contact details

School of Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia
Norwich Research Park
Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK

  • +44 (0)1603 592239