With $10.65 million in support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), a new Energy Frontier Research Center based at Michigan State University (MSU) has been established. Led by Cheryl Kerfeld, a professor in the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, the Center for Catalysis in Biomimetic Confinement (CCBC) will explore how nature compartmentalizes some of its most important biochemical reactions.
Congratulations to Biosciences Area Director’s Award Recipients￼
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.
Get a Move On: Protein Translates Chemistry into Motion
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.
Ralston and Allaire Step Into New Roles
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).
Biosciences Area 2020 LDRD Projects
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.
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