Researchers lead international studies

Scientists at the University are to take part in two international research collaborations.

Researchers from the School of Biological Sciences will join a team examining how organisms manage their energy resources.

They will work with researchers from Peking University and the National Central University in Taiwan to better understand how bacteria balance the need to expend energy on maintaining vital everyday processes, and on coping with varying environmental stresses.

Meanwhile, researchers in the Division of Genetics and Genomics at The Roslin Institute will contribute to an investigation of annual body clocks.

The project, involving the Universities of Tromsø, Norway, Manchester, and Okazaki University in Japan, will seek to shed light on the genes and biological processes that control, for example, ground squirrels’ hibernation, or the autumn migration of birds.

Novel partnerships

We hope to uncover the very fundamental principles of how bacteria manage energy flow.

Teuta PilizotaSchool of Biological Sciences

Both projects have been funded by separate prestigious awards from the Human Frontier Science Program, which supports novel collaborations among teams of scientists working in different countries.

The Edinburgh, Chinese and Taiwanese team will investigate the strategies that bacteria adopt to coordinate use of their available energy.

They will seek to develop techniques that can measure the distribution of two main sources of energy in single cells.

Researchers will then monitor how these forces change when the bacteria is stressed.

Scientists will use their results to create a mathematical model to understand how bacteria manage their free energy supplies under stress.

When under stress, for example when poisoned or exposed to light, bacteria face a difficult juggling act – using energy to respond to the stress or keep vital functions going. In fact, they do both but scientists do not know how.

Teuta PilizotaSchool of Biological Sciences

Internal clocks

Researchers will examine whether annual clocks are driven by specialist cells, and the underlying processes that control them.

They will study genes to better understand how breeding seasons have evolved in fish and birds at differing latitudes.

Researchers will also test whether the animals’ annual clock has evolved in tune with their local seasons.

There are two major clocks that govern life on Earth - the daily cycle of night and day, and the yearly seasons from summer to winter. In this project we will compare the seasonal clocks in diverse organisms to uncover the ancient mechanisms that control seasonal biology.

Professor Dave BurtThe Roslin Institute