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Fungal Enzymes Team Up to More Efficiently Break Down Cellulose

Cost-effectively breaking down bioenergy crops into sugars that can then be converted into fuel is a barrier to commercially producing sustainable biofuels. Enabled by DOE User Facilities, a team reports that early lineages of fungi can form enzyme complexes capable of degrading plant biomass.

Argonne Scientists Make Vanadium Into a Useful Catalyst for Hydrogenation

In a new study, Argonne chemist Max Delferro boosted and analyzed the unprecedented catalytic activity of an element called vanadium for hydrogenation - a reaction that is used for making everything from vegetable oils to petrochemical products to vitamins.

Printed, Flexible and Rechargeable Battery Can Power Wearable Sensors

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego have developed the first printed battery that is flexible, stretchable and rechargeable. The zinc batteries could be used to power everything from wearable sensors to solar cells and other kinds of electronics. The work appears in the April 19, 2017 issue of Advanced Energy Materials.

Neutrons Provide the First Nanoscale Look at a Living Cell Membrane

A research team from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has performed the first-ever direct nanoscale examination of a living cell membrane. In doing so, it also resolved a long-standing debate by identifying tiny groupings of lipid molecules that are likely key to the cell's functioning.

How X-Rays Helped to Solve Mystery of Floating Rocks

Experiments at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source have helped scientists to solve a mystery of why some rocks can float for years in the ocean, traveling thousands of miles before sinking.

Special X-Ray Technique Allows Scientists to See 3-D Deformations

In a new study published last Friday in Science, researchers at Argonne used an X-ray scattering technique called Bragg coherent diffraction imaging to reconstruct in 3-D the size and shape of grain defects. These defects create imperfections in the lattice of atoms inside a grain that can give rise to interesting material properties and effects.

Neptune: Neutralizer-Free Plasma Propulsion

The most established plasma propulsion concepts are gridded-ion thrusters that accelerate and emit a larger number of positively charged particles than those that are negatively charged. To enable the spacecraft to remain charge-neutral, a "neutralizer" is used to inject electrons to exactly balance the positive ion charge in the exhaust beam. However, the neutralizer requires additional power from the spacecraft and increases the size and weight of the propulsion system. Researchers are investigating how the radio-frequency self-bias effect can be used to remove the neutralizer altogether, and they report their work in this week's Physics of Plasmas.

Report Sheds New Insights on the Spin Dynamics of a Material Candidate for Low-Power Devices

In a report published in Nano LettersArgonne researchers reveal new insights into the properties of a magnetic insulator that is a candidate for low-power device applications; their insights form early stepping-stones towards developing high-speed, low-power electronics that use electron spin rather than charge to carry information.

Researchers Find Computer Code That Volkswagen Used to Cheat Emissions Tests

An international team of researchers has uncovered the mechanism that allowed Volkswagen to circumvent U.S. and European emission tests over at least six years before the Environmental Protection Agency put the company on notice in 2015 for violating the Clean Air Act. During a year-long investigation, researchers found code that allowed a car's onboard computer to determine that the vehicle was undergoing an emissions test.

Physicists Discover That Lithium Oxide on Tokamak Walls Can Improve Plasma Performance

A team of physicists has found that a coating of lithium oxide on the inside of fusion machines known as tokamaks can absorb as much deuterium as pure lithium can.


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University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Joins Energy-Focused National Science Foundation Research Center

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is joining a National Science Foundation-backed research center that will develop new technologies for storing, controlling and distributing energy that could ward off cybersecurity threats and lower energy bills.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

Describing the dizzying pace of technological innovation, former United States Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz urged graduates to "anticipate career change, welcome it, and manage it to your and your society's benefit" at the 211th Commencement at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Saturday.

ORNL Welcomes Innovation Crossroads Entrepreneurial Research Fellows

Oak Ridge National Laboratory today welcomed the first cohort of innovators to join Innovation Crossroads, the Southeast region's first entrepreneurial research and development program based at a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory.

Department of Energy Secretary Recognizes Argonne Scientists' Work to Fight Ebola, Cancer

Two groups of researchers at Argonne earned special awards from the office of the U.S. Secretary of Energy for addressing the global health challenges of Ebola and cancer.

Jefferson Science Associates, LLC Recognized for Leadership in Small Business Utilization

Jefferson Lab/Jefferson Science Associates has a long-standing commitment to doing business with and mentoring small businesses. That commitment and support received national recognition at the 16th Annual Dept. of Energy Small Business Forum and Expo held May 16-18, 2017 in Kansas City, Mo.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President's Commencement Colloquy to Address "Criticality, Incisiveness, Creativity"

To kick off the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Commencement weekend, the annual President's Commencement Colloquy will take place on Friday, May 19, beginning at 3:30 p.m. The discussion, titled "Criticality, Incisiveness, Creativity," will include the Honorable Ernest J. Moniz, former Secretary of Energy, and the Honorable Roger W. Ferguson Jr., President and CEO of TIAA, and will be moderated by Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson.

ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission has approved a new doctoral program in data science and engineering as part of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education.

SurfTec Receives $1.2 Million Energy Award to Develop Novel Coating

The Department of Energy has awarded $1.2 million to SurfTec LLC, a company affiliated with the U of A Technology Development Foundation, to continue developing a nanoparticle-based coating to replace lead-based journal bearings in the next generation of electric machines.

Ames Laboratory Scientist Inducted Into National Inventors Hall of Fame

Iver Anderson, senior metallurgist at Ames Laboratory, has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

DOE HPC4Mfg Program Funds 13 New Projects to Improve U.S. Energy Technologies Through High Performance Computing

A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program designed to spur the use of high performance supercomputers to advance U.S. manufacturing is funding 13 new industry projects for a total of $3.9 million.


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Casting a Wide Net

Designed molecules will provide positive impacts in energy production by selectively removing unwanted ions from complex solutions.

New Software Tools Streamline DNA Sequence Design-and-Build Process

Enhanced software tools will accelerate gene discovery and characterization, vital for new forms of fuel production.

The Ultrafast Interplay Between Molecules and Materials

Computer calculations by the Center for Solar Fuels, an Energy Frontier Research Center, shed light on nebulous interactions in semiconductors relevant to dye-sensitized solar cells.

Supercapacitors: WOODn't That Be Nice

Researchers at Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage, an Energy Frontier Research Center, take advantage of nature-made materials and structure for energy storage research.

Groundwater Flow Is Key for Modeling the Global Water Cycle

Water table depth and groundwater flow are vital to understanding the amount of water that plants transmit to the atmosphere.

Finding the Correct Path

A new computational technique greatly simplifies the complex reaction networks common to catalysis and combustion fields.

Opening Efficient Routes to Everyday Plastics

A new material from the Inorganometallic Catalyst Design Center, an Energy Frontier Research Center, facilitates the production of key industrial supplies.

Fight to the Top: Silver and Gold Compete for the Surface of a Bimetallic Solid

It's the classic plot of a buddy movie. Two struggling bodies team up to drive the plot and do good together. That same idea, when it comes to metals, could help scientists solve a big problem: the amount of energy consumed by making chemicals.

Saving Energy Through Light Control

New materials, designed by researchers at the Center for Excitonics, an Energy Frontier Research Center, can reduce energy consumption with the flip of a switch.

Teaching Perovskites to Swim

Scientists at the ANSER Energy Frontier Research Center designed a two-component layer protects a sunlight-harvesting device from water and heat.


Saturday May 20, 2017, 12:05 PM

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Monday May 15, 2017, 01:05 PM

ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday April 07, 2017, 11:05 AM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jonathan Kirzner

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Wednesday April 05, 2017, 12:05 PM

High-Schooler Solves College-Level Security Puzzle From Argonne, Sparks Interest in Career

Argonne National Laboratory

Tuesday March 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jenica Jacobi

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Friday March 24, 2017, 10:40 AM

Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Wednesday February 15, 2017, 04:05 PM

Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

Argonne National Laboratory

Friday January 27, 2017, 04:00 PM

Haslam Visits ORNL to Highlight State's Role in Discovering Tennessine

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Tuesday November 08, 2016, 12:05 PM

Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday May 13, 2016, 04:05 PM

More Than 12,000 Explore Jefferson Lab During April 30 Open House

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Monday April 25, 2016, 05:05 PM

Giving Back to National Science Bowl

Ames Laboratory

Friday March 25, 2016, 12:05 PM

NMSU Undergrad Tackles 3D Particle Scattering Animations After Receiving JSA Research Assistantship

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Tuesday February 02, 2016, 10:05 AM

Shannon Greco: A Self-Described "STEM Education Zealot"

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Monday November 16, 2015, 04:05 PM

Rare Earths for Life: An 85th Birthday Visit with Mr. Rare Earth

Ames Laboratory

Tuesday October 20, 2015, 01:05 PM

Meet Robert Palomino: 'Give Everything a Shot!'

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Tuesday April 22, 2014, 11:30 AM

University of Utah Makes Solar Accessible

University of Utah

Wednesday March 06, 2013, 03:40 PM

Student Innovator at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Seeks Brighter, Smarter, and More Efficient LEDs

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday November 16, 2012, 10:00 AM

Texas Tech Energy Commerce Students, Community Light up Tent City

Texas Tech University

Wednesday November 23, 2011, 10:45 AM

Don't Get 'Frosted' Over Heating Your Home This Winter

Temple University

Wednesday July 06, 2011, 06:00 PM

New Research Center To Tackle Critical Challenges Related to Aircraft Design, Wind Energy, Smart Buildings

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday April 22, 2011, 09:00 AM

First Polymer Solar-Thermal Device Heats Home, Saves Money

Wake Forest University

Friday April 15, 2011, 12:25 PM

Like Superman, American University Will Get Its Energy from the Sun

American University

Thursday February 10, 2011, 05:00 PM

ARRA Grant to Help Fund Seminary Building Green Roof

University of Chicago

Tuesday December 07, 2010, 05:00 PM

UC San Diego Installing 2.8 Megawatt Fuel Cell to Anchor Energy Innovation Park

University of California San Diego

Monday November 01, 2010, 12:50 PM

Rensselaer Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center Announces First Deployment of New Technology on Campus

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday September 10, 2010, 12:40 PM

Ithaca College Will Host Regional Clean Energy Summit

Ithaca College

Tuesday July 27, 2010, 10:30 AM

Texas Governor Announces $8.4 Million Award to Create Renewable Energy Institute

Texas Tech University

Friday May 07, 2010, 04:20 PM

Creighton University to Offer New Alternative Energy Program

Creighton University

Wednesday May 05, 2010, 09:30 AM

National Engineering Program Seeks Subject Matter Experts in Energy

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Wednesday April 21, 2010, 12:30 PM

Students Using Solar Power To Create Sustainable Solutions for Haiti, Peru

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Wednesday March 03, 2010, 07:00 PM

Helping Hydrogen: Student Inventor Tackles Challenge of Hydrogen Storage

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Thursday February 04, 2010, 02:00 PM

Turning Exercise into Electricity

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Thursday November 12, 2009, 12:45 PM

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Furman University Receives $2.5 Million DOE Grant for Geothermal Project

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Friday October 12, 2007, 09:35 AM

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X-Rays Reveal New Path in Battle Against Mosquito-Borne Illness

Article ID: 661589

Released: 2016-09-26 14:30:12

Source Newsroom: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

  • Credit: (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    The mosquito larvicide BinAB is composed of two proteins, BinA (yellow) and BinB (blue). Inside bacterial cells, BinAB naturally forms nanocrystals. Using these crystals and the intense X-ray pulses produced by SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source, scientists shed light on the three-dimensional structure of BinAB and its mode of action.

Menlo Park, Calif. — Structural biology research conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has uncovered how small insecticidal protein crystals that are naturally produced by bacteria might be tailored to combat dengue fever and the Zika virus.

SLAC’s X-ray free-electron laser – the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), a DOE Office of Science user facility – offered unprecedented views of the toxin BinAB, used as a larvicide in public health efforts against mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus and viral encephalitis.

The larvicide is currently ineffective against the Aedes mosquitos that transmit Zika and dengue fever, and therefore not used to combat these species of mosquitos at this time. The new information provides clues to how scientists could design a composite toxin that would work against a broader range of mosquito species, including Aedes.

Today, Nature published the study.

“A more detailed look at the proteins’ structure provides information fundamental to understanding how the crystals kill mosquito larvae,” said Jacques-Philippe Colletier, a scientist at the Institut de Biologie Structurale and lead author on the paper. “This is a prerequisite for modifying the toxin to adapt it to our needs.”

Selective Mosquito Control, Courtesy of Bacteria

The BinAB crystals are produced by Lysinibacillus sphaericus bacteria, which release the crystals along with spores at the end of their life cycle. Mosquito larvae eat the crystals along with the spores, and then die.

BinAB is inactive in the crystalline state and does not work on contact. For the crystals to dissolve, they must be exposed to alkaline conditions, such as those in a mosquito larva’s gut. The binary protein is then activated, recognized by a specific receptor at the surface of cells and internalized.

Because Aedes larvae can evade one of these steps of intoxication, they are resistant to BinAB. These larvae do not express the correct receptors at the surface of their intestinal cells. Many other insect species, small crustaceans and humans also lack these receptors, as well as alkaline digestive systems.

“Part of the appeal is that the larvicide’s safe because it’s so specific, but that’s also part of its limitation,” said Michael Sawaya, a scientist at the UCLA-DOE Molecular Biology Institute and co-author on the paper.

For public health officials who want to prevent mosquito-borne disease, BinAB could also offer an alternative for controlling certain species of mosquitos that have begun to show resistance to other forms of chemical control.

Creating a Tailored Insecticide

The research team already knew the larvicide is composed of a pair of proteins, BinA and BinB, that pair together in crystals and are later activated by larval digestive enzymes.

In the LCLS experiments, they learned the molecular basis for how the two proteins paired with each other – each performing an important, unique function. Previous research had determined that BinA is the toxic part of the complex, while BinB is responsible for binding the toxin to the mosquito’s intestine. BinB ushers BinA into the cells; once inside, BinA kills the cell.

The scientists also identified four “hot spots” on the proteins that are activated by the alkaline conditions in the larval gut. Altogether, they trigger a change from a nontoxic form of the protein to a version that is lethal to mosquito larvae.

Using the information gathered during the crystallography study, the research team has already begun to engineer a form of the BinAB proteins that will work against more species of mosquitos. This is work that is ongoing at Institut de Biologie Structurale, University of California Los Angeles, University of California Riverside and SLAC.

Solving the Structure

Only coarse details were known about the unique three-dimensional structure and biological behavior of BinAB prior to the experiment at LCLS.

“We chose to look at the BinAB larvicide because it is so widely used, yet the structural details were a mystery,” said Brian Federici, professor of entomology at University of California Riverside.

The small size of the crystals made them difficult to study at conventional X-ray sources. So the research team used genetic engineering techniques to increase the size of the crystals, and the bright, fast pulses of light at LCLS allowed the scientists to collect detailed structural data from the tiny crystals before X-rays damaged their samples.

The researchers used a crystallography technique called de novo phasing. This involves tagging the crystals with heavy metal markers, collecting tens of thousands of X-ray diffraction patterns, and combining the information collected to obtain a three-dimensional map of the electron density of the protein.

“This is the first time we’ve used de novo phasing on a crystal of great interest at an X-ray free-electron laser,” said Sebastien Boutet, SLAC scientist.

The technique had so far only been used on test samples where the structure was already known, in order to prove that it would work.

“The most immediate need is to now expand the spectrum of action of the BinAB toxin to counter the progression of Zika, in particular,” said Colletier. “BinAB is already effective against Culex [carrier of West Nile encephalitis] and Anopheles [carrier of malaria] mosquitos. With results of the study, we now feel more confident that we can design the protein to target Aedes mosquitos.”

Additional contributors to the research include scientists from the Howard Hughes Medical Institutes at University of California Los Angeles, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Stanford University. The Institut de Biologie Structurale is a research center for integrated structural biology funded by the Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Université Grenoble Alpes. The Collaborative Innovation Award program of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HCIA-HHMI), W.M Keck Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, France Alzheimer Foundation, Agence Nationale de la Recherche, and DOE’s Office of Science and Office of Basic Energy Sciences supported the research.

SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. To learn more, please visit www.slac.stanford.edu.

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.