skip to primary navigationskip to content

David Lea-Smith (Postdoctoral Researcher)

David Lea-Smith


Tel: +44 (0)1223 765945

BSc. (First Class Hons) Biochemistry. Monash university, Australia (1994-1997)
PhD in cell wall genetics in Corynebacterieae (Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship). Monash University, Australia (2001-2006)
University of Edinburgh, UK. Post-Doctorate Associate. Cystic Fibrosis Gene Therapy Group (2007-2009)
University of Cambridge, UK. Post-Doctorate Associate (2009 - present), Research Associate of Corpus Christi College (2010 - present)

Research interests

Respiration, photosynthesis and biofuel and chemical production in photosynthetic bacteria

I specialise in bacterial genetics. My PhD research at Monash University aimed to identify and characterize biosynthetic pathways leading to the production of cell wall components using targeted mutagenesis experiments in two model species, Mycobacterium smegmatis and Corynebacterium glutamicum. These mutants were genotypically characterized, then subjected to rigorous cell wall analyses to determine the altered cell wall component. In this way, we were able to ascribe functions to gene products. This work has resulted in characterization of two enzymes, both potential anti-tuberculosis drug targets.

My first postdoctoral position was in the cystic fibrosis gene therapy group at the University of Edinburgh. My work focused on improving gene therapy to the lung by identification of DNA sequences that increase nuclear import, analysis of novel non-viral transfection reagents targeting receptors on the apical side of bronchial epithelial cells and the analysis of chemicals that may increase transfection levels.

I am now working with Professor Chris Howe at the Department of Biochemistry to develop photosynthetic microorganisms as a source of biofuels and other useful components. We concentrate on strains that can be genetically manipulated to improve growth and increase production of our desired compounds. I am also interested in the physiology and biochemistry of cyanobacteria and purple photosynthetic bacteria and their role in global nutrient cycles.

Click for Google Scholar Profile


Yamaryo-Botte Y, Rainczuk A, Lea-Smith DJ, Brammananth R, van der Peet PL, Meikle P, Williams SJ, Coppel RL, Crellin PK, McConville MJ (2015). Acetylation of trehalose mycolates is required for efficient MmpL-mediated membrane transport in Corynebacterineae. ACS Chemical Biology. 10 (3), 734-746.

Lea-Smith DJ*, Bombelli P, Dennis JS, Scott SA, Smith AG, Howe CJ (2014). Phycobilisome-Deficient Strains of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 Have Reduced Size and Require Carbon-Limiting Conditions to Exhibit Enhanced Productivity. Plant physiology 165 (2), 705-714.

*Corresponding author.


AJ McCormick, P Bombelli, DJ Lea-Smith, RW Bradley, AM Scott, AC Fisher, AG ... Hydrogen production through oxygenic photosynthesis using the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 in a bio-photoelectrolysis cell (BPE) system
Energy & Environmental Science 6 (9), 2682-2690


RW Bradley, P Bombelli, DJ Lea-Smith, CJ Howe

Terminal oxidase mutants of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 show increased electrogenic activity in biological photo-voltaic systems
Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 15 (32), 13611-13618


DJ Lea-Smith, N Ross, M Zori, DS Bendall, JS Dennis, SA Scott, AG Smith, CJ Howe Thylakoid terminal oxidases are essential for the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 to survive rapidly changing light intensities
Plant physiology 162 (1), 484-49

SA Scott, MP Davey, JS Dennis, I Horst, CJ Howe, DJ Lea-Smith, AG Smith
Biodiesel from algae: challenges and prospects
Current Opinion in Biotechnology 21 (3), 277-286

Lea-Smith DJ*, Martin KL*, Pyke JS, Tull D, McConville MJ, Coppel RL, Crellin PK. (2008) Analysis of a new mannosyltransferase required for the synthesis of phosphatidylinositol mannosides and lipoarabinomannan reveals two lipomannan pools in corynebacterineae. Journal of Biological Chemistry. Mar 14;283(11):6773-82. (*Equal first authors)

Lea-Smith DJ, Pyke JS, Tull D, McConville MJ, Coppel RL, Crellin PK. (2007) The reductase that catalyzes mycolic motif synthesis is required for efficient attachment of mycolic acids to arabinogalactan. Journal of Biological Chemistry. Apr 13;282(15):11000-8.

Matsoso, L.G., Kana, B.D., Crellin, P.K., Lea-Smith, D.J., Pelosi, A., Powell, D., Dawes, S.S., Rubin, H., Coppel, R.L., and Mizrahi, V. (2005) Function of the cytochrome bc1-aa3 branch of the respiratory network in mycobacteria and network adaptation occurring in response to its disruption. Journal of Bacteriology 187: 6300-6308.




Contact us

Professor Chris Howe
Professor of Plant Biochemistry

Tel: +44 (0)1223 333688

Lab phone: +44 (0)1223 333687
Departmental fax: +44 (0)1223 333345

Department of Biochemistry
University of Cambridge
Hopkins Building
Downing Site
Cambridge CB2 1QW
United Kingdom