PhD position at the Nutrigenomics Research Group

Universitat Rovira i Virgili
 |  08.07.2021

Martí i Franquès MSCA-COFUND-DP. Call for 1 PhD position in “Interaction between protein hydrolysates and gut microbiota: prebiotic potential and promotion of postbiotics production with antihypertensive effects”

Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Biological sciences
Medical sciences
First Stage Researcher (R1)
06/09/2021 12:00 – Europe/Brussels
Spain › Tarragona
H2020 / Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions

The Martí i Franquès COFUND Doctoral Programme (MFP) is a redesign of the existing MF programme, offering 100 doctoral contracts (in four editions: 2017, 2018 and 2020, 2021) at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV). The programme is uniquely shaped to offer the best training stemming from the “triple i” principles of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions: international, interdisciplinary and intersectoral.

In order to achieve these goals, we combine leading research groups at URV with scientific partners from world-class institutions, such that the candidates are be exposed to interdisciplinary training as well as mentoring from the industrial sector.

The positions are based on individual projects encompassing all areas of research at URV: Sciences, Health Sciences, Arts and Humanities, Engineering, Social and Legal Sciences. Prospective candidates can find here the full list of projects. The application process is entirely electronic.

Through MFP, URV is in a unique position to offer the best conditions for doctoral training, based on the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers (guaranteed by the HR award that URV has received in 2014), as well as the EU Principles for Innovative Doctorate Training.

Description of the research project (ref. 2021MFP-COFUND-4)

Gut microbiota is emerging as a key player in the interaction between diet and health and it is a clear target in the development of new therapeutics against several diseases. Recently it has been demonstrated that hypertension, which has become the most critical and expensive public health problem, is significantly influenced by gut microbiota. Thus, fecal transplantation from hypertensive patients to germ-free mice led to elevated blood pressure, demonstrating a direct influence of gut microbiota. Moreover, hypertension has been linked to decreased beneficial bacteria. Due to its therapeutic potential, modulation of gut microbiota has received considerable interest. Proteins are an important macronutrient that may have a major contribution on shaping the gut bacteria, serving as a source of nitrogen and being essential to produce postbiotics, which are beneficial microbial metabolites. There is growing recognition that gut microbiota can be modulated by the dietary proteins which in turn impact health. Reciprocally, gut microbiota affects protein metabolism releasing peptides. However, this interaction has not been deeply investigated yet.

Protein hydrolysates are of high interest as they are a great source of bioactive peptides, which may exert several beneficial effects, including antihypertensive. It has recently been shown that hydrolysates may impact gut microbiota, but their interaction is still poorly understood. It is wort mentioning that agri-food industries byproducts are protein-rich sources, and their reuse can represent a renewable source for new bioactive protein hydrolysates, which will benefit the entire food system contributing to the circular economy.

Taking all together, the hypothesis of this project is that specific protein hydrolysates from agri-food industry byproducts may modulate the gut microbiota and promote the production of postbiotic metabolites, including antihypertensive peptides. The aim is to study the interaction between hydrolysates and gut microbiota by investigating their prebiotic potential and capability to promote postbiotics production with antihypertensive effects in a hypertensive rat model. The main tasks to be developed during this projects are: (1) to obtain protein hydrolysates from agri-food industry byproducts, (2) to ferment them with feces from pre-hypertensive donors and selection according to their potential to affect microbiota and produce antihypertensive postbiotics (3) to validate antihypertensive activity in hypertensive rats (SHR), (4) to investigate long-term effects of the most active hydrolysate in SHR and (5) to assess hydrolysate effects in a human gut microbiota context after simulation of gastrointestinal digestion. This will provide novel insights into the interaction between microbial activity and proteins.

To carried out this project, the Nutrigenomic Research Group (URV, Tarragona, Spain) is looking for a highly motivated candidate who will join a multidisciplinary team which includes experts in gut microbiota, bioactive protein hydrolysates, metagenomic and metabolomic techniques.

Highly desirable (not mandatory) attributes of the ideal candidate

  • Demonstrated previous experience in one or more of the following topics: molecular biology techniques, animal experiments
  • Hold a Master degree, or equivalent, in: Biology, Biotechnology and/or Biochemistry sciences
  • Language skills: fluent English and/or Spanish
  • Specific Software skills: knowledge of R or similar
  • Personality traits: collaboration and team worker skills, motivated and responsible