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Exploring the antioxidant defenses of Streptococcus pneumoniae

A 2018/2019 Summer Studentship research project

Drug resistant S. pneumoniae are recognised to be a serious threat to human health and new approaches are required to limit pathogenicity. Understanding how this bacterium copes with oxidative stress may reveal new ways to prevent its growth within the lungs of infected individuals.

Student: Yanxiang Meng
Supervisor: Professor Mark Hampton, Professor Christine Winterbourn, Associate Professor Ren Dobson (University of Canterbury)
Sponsor: TBC

Student prerequisites

Must be studying biochemistry.

How to apply

Contact the first supervisor, Professor Mark Hampton, to express your interest:

Tel +64 3 378 6225

Project brief


One hundred years ago Streptococcus pneumoniae was branded the “captain of the men of death” due to its ability to cause pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis. It still kills over one million people per year, primarily children and the elderly. We are particularly interested in the ability of this bacterium to generate large amounts of hydrogen peroxide as part of its normal metabolism. S. pneumoniae does not have catalase, the main enzyme used by other aerobic organisms to remove hydrogen peroxide, raising the question of how the bacterium survives its own waste product. We are interested in studying a thiol protein that may play a role in the response of S. pneumoniae to hydrogen peroxide.


The aim of this project is to measure the reactivity of the protein of interest with hydrogen peroxide, and then examine how the function of the protein is altered upon oxidation, including its interaction with other S. pneumoniae thiol proteins.


The student will express the protein of interest and use standard biochemical techniques to measure the reactivity of its active site cysteine residues with hydrogen peroxide. The ability of these cysteines to undergo redox reactions with other S. pneumoniae thiol proteins will also be assessed.

Student researcher’s component of the study

The student will be responsible for all of the laboratory work undertaken for this project.