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The Economic Case for Wind and Solar Energy in Africa

To meet skyrocketing demand for electricity, African countries may have to triple their energy output by 2030. While hydropower and fossil fuel power plants are favored approaches in some quarters, a new assessment by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found that wind and solar can be economically and environmentally competitive options and can contribute significantly to the rising demand.

Chemists ID Catalytic 'Key' for Converting CO2 to Methanol

Results from experiments and computational modeling studies that definitively identify the "active site" of a catalyst commonly used for making methanol from CO2 will guide the design of improved catalysts for transforming this pollutant to useful chemicals.

Cryo-Electron Microscopy Achieves Unprecedented Resolution Using New Computational Methods

Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM)--which enables the visualization of viruses, proteins, and other biological structures at the molecular level--is a critical tool used to advance biochemical knowledge. Now Berkeley Lab researchers have extended cryo-EM's impact further by developing a new computational algorithm instrumental in constructing a 3-D atomic-scale model of bacteriophage P22 for the first time.

New Study Maps Space Dust in 3-D

A new Berkeley Lab-led study provides detailed 3-D views of space dust in the Milky Way, which could help us understand the properties of this dust and how it affects views of distant objects.

Single-Angle Ptychography Allows 3D Imaging of Stressed Materials

Scientists have used a new X-ray diffraction technique called Bragg single-angle ptychography to get a clear picture of how planes of atoms shift and squeeze under stress.

New Feedback System Could Allow Greater Control Over Fusion Plasma

A physicist has created a new system that will let scientists control the energy and rotation of plasma in real time in a doughnut-shaped machine known as a tokamak.

Towards Super-Efficient, Ultra-Thin Silicon Solar Cells

Researchers from Ames Laboratory used supercomputers at NERSC to evaluate a novel approach for creating more energy-efficient ultra-thin crystalline silicon solar cells by optimizing nanophotonic light trapping.

Study IDs Link Between Sugar Signaling and Regulation of Oil Production in Plants

UPTON, NY--Even plants have to live on an energy budget. While they're known for converting solar energy into chemical energy in the form of sugars, plants have sophisticated biochemical mechanisms for regulating how they spend that energy. Making oils costs a lot. By exploring the details of this delicate energy balance, a group of scientists from the U.

High-Energy Electrons Probe Ultrafast Atomic Motion

A new technique synchronized high-energy electrons with an ultrafast laser pulse to probe how vibrational states of atoms change in time.

Rare Earth Recycling

A new energy-efficient separation of rare earth elements could provide a new domestic source of critical materials.


Valerie Taylor Named Argonne National Laboratory's Mathematics and Computer Science Division Director

Computer scientist Valerie Taylor has been appointed as the next director of the Mathematics and Computer Science division at Argonne, effective July 3, 2017.

Three SLAC Employees Awarded Lab's Highest Honor

At a March 7 ceremony, three employees of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory were awarded the lab's highest honor ­- the SLAC Director's Award.

Dan Sinars Represents Sandia in First Energy Leadership Class

Dan Sinars, a senior manager in Sandia National Laboratories' pulsed power center, which built and operates the Z facility, is the sole representative from a nuclear weapons lab in a new Department of Energy leadership program that recently visited Sandia.

ORNL, HTS International Corporation to Collaborate on Manufacturing Research

HTS International Corporation and the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have signed an agreement to explore potential collaborations in advanced manufacturing research.

Jefferson Lab Director Honored with Energy Secretary Award

Hugh Montgomery, director of the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab), was awarded The Secretary's Distinguished Service Award by the Secretary of Energy earlier this year.

New Projects to Make Geothermal Energy More Economically Attractive

Geothermal energy, a clean, renewable source of energy produced by the heat of the earth, provides about 6 percent of California's total power. That number could be much higher if associated costs were lower. Now scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have launched two California Energy Commission-funded projects aimed at making geothermal energy more cost-effective to deploy and operate.

Southern Research Project Advances Novel CO2 Utilization Strategy

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy has awarded Southern Research nearly $800,000 for a project that targets a more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly method of producing some of the most important chemicals used in manufacturing.

Harker School Wins 2017 SLAC Regional Science Bowl Competition

After losing its first match of the day to the defending champions, The Harker School's team won 10 consecutive rounds to claim victory in the annual SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Francis Alexander Named Deputy Director of Brookhaven Lab's Computational Science Initiative

Alexander brings extensive management and leadership experience in computational science research to the position.

Kalinin, Paranthaman Elected Materials Research Society Fellows

Two researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sergei Kalinin and Mariappan Parans Paranthaman, have been elected fellows of the Materials Research Society.


High-Energy Electrons Probe Ultrafast Atomic Motion

A new technique synchronized high-energy electrons with an ultrafast laser pulse to probe how vibrational states of atoms change in time.

Rare Earth Recycling

A new energy-efficient separation of rare earth elements could provide a new domestic source of critical materials.

Modeling the "Flicker" of Gluons in Subatomic Smashups

A new model identifies a high degree of fluctuations in the glue-like particles that bind quarks within protons as essential to explaining proton structure.

Rare Nickel Atom Has "Doubly Magic" Structure

Supercomputing calculations confirm that rare nickel-78 has unusual structure, offering insights into supernovas.

Microbial Activity in the Subsurface Contributes to Greenhouse Gas Fluxes

Natural carbon dioxide production from deep subsurface soils contributes significantly to emissions, even in a semiarid floodplain.

Stretching a Metal Into an Insulator

Straining a thin film controllably allows tuning of the materials' magnetic, electronic, and catalytic properties, essential for new energy and electronic devices.

How Moisture Affects the Way Soil Microbes Breathe

Study models soil-pore features that hold or release carbon dioxide.

ARM Data Is for the Birds

Scientists use LIDAR and radar data to study bird migration patterns, thanks to the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility.

The Future of Coastal Flooding

Better storm surge prediction capabilities could help reduce the impacts of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes.

Estimating Global Energy Use for Water-Related Processes

Scientists find that water-related energy consumption is increasing across the globe, with pronounced differences across regions and sectors.


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

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Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

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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.