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Powerful Lasers, Deep-Sea Bacteria’s Pressure Tolerance, And More At Meeting Of Crystallographers

July 27, 2012

The Annual Meeting of the American Crystallographic Association (ACA) will be held July 28 — Aug. 1, 2012, at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in Boston, Mass. Crystallography is the science devoted to exploring the arrangement of atoms in regular crystalline solids and in complicated molecules. Scientists will present research spanning a diverse array of disciplines, including medicine, genomics, material science, and structural biology.

The following summaries link to full news releases and highlight a few of the meeting’s many noteworthy talks.

Speed and power of X-ray laser helps unlock molecular mysteries: New nanocrystallography technique shines light on biomolecules in action: By outrunning a laser’s path of destruction, an international research team has created 3D images of fragile but biologically important molecules inside protein nanocrystals. Using the Linac Coherence Light Source (LCLS), a powerful X-ray laser at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., the scientists fired femtosecond (one quadrillionth of a second) bursts of light at a stream of tumbling molecules, obliterating them as they pass, but not before capturing otherwise illusive images of their crystalline structures. Read full news release here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-07/aiop-sap072512.php. [Buerger Award presentation and talk AW.01.1, "Fast molecular imaging with an X-ray laser," is in the morning on Sunday, July 29.]

Delving into the molecular mechanism behind deep-sea bacteria’s pressure tolerance: The Mariana Trench is the deepest feature of the Earth’s surface. The water column there exerts a pressure of more than one thousand times normal atmospheric pressure at sea level, enough pressure to crush an SUV. Yet many organisms thrive in this seemingly inhospitable environment. A Japanese research team has been investigating how deep-sea bacteria adapt to such high-pressure conditions. They have identified a structural change that confers pressure-resistant properties on a particular protein found in bacteria. Read full news release here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-07/aiop-dit072512.php. [Poster 01.02.17, "High-pressure-induced water penetration and pressure adaptation of IPMDH from deep-sea bacteria," is in the afternoon session on Sunday, July 29.]

Researchers dig through the gene bank to uncover the roots of the evolutionary tree: Ever since Darwin first published The Origin of the Species, scientists have been striving to identify a last universal common ancestor of all living species. Paleontological, biochemical, and genomic studies have produced conflicting versions of the evolutionary tree. Now a team of researchers, led by a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and including area high school students, has developed a novel method to search the vast archives of known gene sequences to identify and compare similar proteins across the many kingdoms of life. Using the comparisons to quantify the evolutionary closeness of different species, the researchers have identified Actinobacteria, a group of single membrane bacteria that include common soil and water life forms, as the base of the evolutionary tree. Read full news release here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-07/aiop-rdt072512.php. [Presentation 03.01, "Evolutionary Tree of All Species from X-ray Structure and Sequence Alignment," is in the afternoon session on Sunday, July 29 and presentation 03.02.08, "Analysis of Ribosomal Protein S13: Sequence Alignment Analysis Suggests Rooted Phylogenetic Tree," is in the afternoon session on Wednesday, Aug. 1.]

Researchers unveil molecular details of how bacteria propagate antibiotic resistance: Fighting “superbugs” — strains of pathogenic bacteria that are impervious to the antibiotics that subdued their predecessor generations — has required physicians to seek new and more powerful drugs for their arsenals. Unfortunately, in time, these treatments also can fall prey to the same microbial ability to become drug resistant. Now a research team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) may have found a way to break the cycle that doesn’t demand the deployment of a next-generation medical therapy: preventing “superbugs” from genetically propagating drug resistance. Read full news release here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-07/aiop-rum072612.php. [The poster 13.22.24, "Development of Novel Antibiotics Through Structural and Biochemical Analysis of the NES Relaxase from the Vancomycin Resistance Plasmid pLW1043," is in the afternoon session on Monday, Aug. 1.]

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