Patrick Shih, Director of Plant Biosystems Design at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and faculty scientist with the Environmental Genomics & Systems Biology (EGSB) Division, collaborated with a team of researchers led by the University of British Columbia in a new study that has found that bacteria go extinct at substantial rates, although appear to avoid the mass extinctions that have hit larger forms of life on Earth. The finding contradicts widely held scientific thinking that microbe taxa, because of their very large populations, rarely die off. The study “Bacterial diversification through geological time,” published today in Nature Ecology and Evolution used massive DNA sequencing and big data analysis to create the first evolutionary tree encompassing a large fraction of Earth’s bacteria over the past billion years. To learn more read the University of British Columbia news release.
This summer the Biosciences Area has hosted student interns ranging from high school- through graduate school-level. They came to our laboratories through a number of programs dedicated to training the next generation of scientists. Some of our interns took time from their busy summer to share with us highlights of their experiences in the Biosciences Area.More »
Bacterial microcompartments (BMCs) are organelles that encapsulate portions of metabolic pathways, like miniature factories. They’re found across diverse phyla and do different things depending on the host. Scientists want to retrofit these factories to perform desired functions, such as producing biofuels, industrial materials, or nanoscale medical devices. But current technologies to manipulate BMCs, which consist of an enzymatic core surrounded by a shell made up of protein tiles, have limitations. In a recently published Nature Communications paper, researchers affiliated with Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology (EGSB) Division and Michigan State’s MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory present two new methods they’ve developed to facilitate the construction of synthetic versions.More »
Using protein crystallography at the Advanced Light Source (ALS), investigators at Oregon Health and Science University visualized an acid-sensing ion channel, ASIC1a, in it’s elusive closed state for the first time. An important cell membrane protein in the central nervous system, ASIC1a plays a role in sensing pain and in forming memories of fear. The researchers used protein crystals of ASIC1a channels purified in the closed state and compiled X-ray data from ALS Beamline 5.0.2 and the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Lab to build a model of the closed channel structure. Defining the closed structure enabled the researchers to generate a comprehensive molecular model of how ASIC1a toggles between the closed, open, and desensitized states.
Read more from the ALS.
The National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) visited JBEI on July 17. NSLC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, education organization which brings together high school students for fast-paced, high-level, interactive summer sessions. For a fifth year in a row JBEI and NSLC partnered to instruct students about the benefits and research behind biofuels and bioproducts.More »