Each year, the Berkeley Lab Director’s Achievement Award program recognizes outstanding contributions by employees to all facets of Lab activities. Several Biosciences Area personnel are among the 2022 honorees.
The protein CheY plays a role in relaying sensory signals from chemoreceptors to the rotary motor at the base of the tail-like appendage, or flagellum, that protrudes from the cell body of certain bacteria and eukaryotic cells. It has been studied as a model for dissecting the mechanism of allostery—the process by which the binding of biological macromolecules (mainly proteins) at one location regulates activity at another, often distant, functional site. When it is transiently phosphorylated in response to chemotactic cues, CheY’s binding affinity for a flagellar motor switch protein called FliM is enhanced. CheY binding to FliM changes the direction of flagellar rotation from counterclockwise to clockwise.
Using X-ray footprinting with mass spectroscopy (XFMS), a team led by Shahid Khan, a senior scientist with the Molecular Biology Consortium, established that CheY changes shape when it tethers to the motor, and further parsed the contribution of phosphorylation to this shape change. The results of the XFMS experiments validated atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) predictions of the architecture of the allosteric communication network, marking the first time that XFMS has been used to validate protein dynamics simulations at single-residue resolution sampled over the complete protein.
Corie Ralston and Marc Allaire, both staff scientists, have been promoted to new leadership positions. Ralston has assumed the position of Facility Director for the Biological Nanostructures Facility at the Molecular Foundry. Allaire has been appointed Head of the Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging (MBIB) Division’s Berkeley Center for Structural Biology (BCSB). The BCSB manages six macromolecular crystallography beamlines at the Advanced Light Source (ALS).
The projects of 14 Biosciences Area scientists and engineers received funding through the FY20 Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. The funded projects span a diverse array of topics and approaches including: developing closed-loop plastics from biogenic feedstocks; reimagining a root system optimized for plant-microbe interactions; and creating computational tools for extracting macromolecular conformational dynamics. Lab-wide, 96 projects were selected from a field of 168 proposals. Biosciences Area efforts account for 18.5 percent of the $23 million allocated.
Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging (MBIB) Division Director Paul Adams has announced a number of changes in the Division leadership, effective October 1. Earlier this summer, Corie Ralston agreed to serve as the Interim Director of the Molecular Foundry’s Biological Nanostructures Facility. She will step down as MBIB Division Deputy and remain as the Head of the Berkeley Center for Structural Biology (BCSB) at the Advanced Light Source (ALS).