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Watch the video to see how the flavin-based bifurcating enzyme NADH-dependent ferredoxin-NADP+ oxidoreductase I (Nfn) catalyzes the formation of an energy-rich product, reduced ferredoxin (Fd), from the less energetic donor, NADPH, by coupling this reaction to the thermodynamically favorable reduction of NAD+ by NADPH. For full discussion, see Lubner et al., 2017, Nat Chem Biol 13:655.



NEWSLETTER


Winter 2017 e-newsletter


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Spring 2018


BETCy e-Newsletter
Stay in touch with all the latest news and research findings from BETCy. News items will be periodically distributed in electronic format. Please contact the Operations Manager to sign up for a subscription or view archived issues.


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Fall 2017
Summer 2017
Winter 2017
Fall 2016
Summer 2016
Winter 2016
Fall 2015
Spring 2015

IN THE NEWS

SPRING 2018

Biological methane production from bacterial iron-only nitrogenase

Methane (CH 4 ) is a potent greenhouse gas, roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO 2 ). CH 4 is released from fossil fuels and is also produced by microbial activity, with at least one billion tons of CH 4 being formed and consumed by microorganisms in a single year. Complex methanogenesis pathways used by archaea have long been believed to be the exclusive route for CH4 production in nature.

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Biological methane production from bacterial iron-only nitrogenase

Methane (CH 4 ) is a potent greenhouse gas, roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO 2 ). CH 4 is released from fossil fuels and is also produced by microbial activity, with at least one billion tons of CH 4 being formed and consumed by microorganisms in a single year. Complex methanogenesis pathways used by archaea have long been believed to be the exclusive route for CH4 production in nature.

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Fe-nitrogenase active site FeFe-cofactor detailed in Biochemistry

In a second paper describing nitrogenase, BETCy research has illuminated key mechanistic details of the N2 reduction mechanism for the Fe-nitrogenase active site FeFe-cofactor. The work was published in the Feb. 6, 2018 issue of the journal Biochemistry.

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John Peters earns dual fellowships with AAM and AAAS

BETCy director John Peters has been named a Fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology. This is Peters' second such honor in the last three months: last fall he was named a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his contributions in chemistry.

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BETCy researchers determine role of allostery in the model electron bifurcating enzyme, Nfn

Bifurcating enzymes control the direction of electron transfer through a process known as electron gating. In a recent publication, the BETCy team provides insight into the electron gating mechanism of the bifurcating Nfn enzyme through a combination of computational and biophysical methods.

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Probing the flavins in FixAB

One of the electron bifurcating enzymes examined by BETCy is the Fix system, which furnishes low potential electrons to nitrogenase. At the core of this system is the heterodimeric FixAB complex, which houses two FAD cofactors. One of the FADs is the presumed site of bifurcation while the other FAD is thought to act as an electron conduit. A key challenge has been the overlapping spectral signals of the two FADs.

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FALL 2017

 
   

BETCy groups combine time-domain and equilibrium spectroscopic studies to refine diagnosis of bifurcating flavins

A new BETCy paperappearing in the Aug. 25 issue of theJournal of Biological Chemistrybuilds on BETCy's pioneering transient absorption spectroscopy (TAS) studies to explain the short lifetimes of bifurcating vs. non-bifurcating flavin anionic semiquinones (ASQs) in terms of their mechanisms of re-oxidation via electron transfer vs. charge recombination. TAS revealed short-lived flavin ASQs in each of the flavin-based bifurcating systems studied by BETCy. These observations provided important first evidence for a mechanism in which an unstable flavin semiquinone could transfer an electron to a low-potential acceptor.

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BETCy publication highlights intriguing differences between Nfn and Xfn

Building on work published earlier this yearthat describes the mechanism of flavin-based electron bifurcation in the enzyme Nfn, BETCy recently published an additional paper that provides the first structural and biochemical characterization of Xfn, an enzyme which is closely related to Nfn. Both Nfn and Xfn have overlapping roles in maintaining cellular redox balance. Nfn uses a bifurcating mechanism to exchange reducing units between the electron carriers NADPH, NADH and ferredoxin. In the new study, BETCy scientists uncover important differences between the Nfn and Xfn enzymes and provide comparisons between the two that will aid researchers to better understand the atomic determinants of enzymes that catalyze electron bifurcation.

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Defining Electron Bifurcation in the Electron Transferring Flavoprotein Family

BETCy researchers have classified the diverse family of electron transferring flavoproteins (Etfs) into five distinct groups and have identified a set of amino-acid motifs that predict the ability of enzymes to catalyze electron bifurcation reactions. The new studyappears in theNovember 2017 issue of the Journal of Bacteriology.

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Nucleotide-dependent structural changes drive protein-protein interactions essential for nitrognease activity

A recent paper by BETCy scientists is providing fresh insight into the mechanisms controlling electron transfer within nitrogenase, the multi-subunit enzyme complex responsible for biological nitrogen fixation. The interdisciplinary team, led by three BETCy research groups, probed the protein-protein interactions involved in electron transfer between different components of nitrogenase.

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BETCy Team Establishes Role of Electron Bifurcation in Nitrogen Fixation

The nitrogenase enzyme catalyzes the reduction of dinitrogen (N2) to a bioavailable form (NH3) in an energy intensive reaction that requires both ATP and a strong reductant containing high-energy electrons. The pathways that generate the high-energy electrons, however, have remained elusive for many nitrogen-fixing bacteria.In a recent publication, BETCy scientists showed that some nitrogen-fixing bacteria generate strong reductants using the so-called FixABCX enzyme complex.The Fix complex bifurcates electrons from NADH, sending half the electrons down a high-energy pathwaywhile sending the remaining electrons down a lower energy path.

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BETCy scientists publish on the thermodynamics and kinetics of electron bifurcation

In collaboration between BETCy experimentalists at Washington State Universityand National Renewable Energy Laboratory, theoretical chemists Peng Zhangand Jonathon Yulyin BETCy's Beratan research group at Duke University published in the September 2017 issue of Accounts of Chemical Research.

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SUMMER 2017

 
   

New BETCy Technical Capability for Probing Biomolecular Interactions

The Peters Research Group recently acquired a new instrument that will enable BETCy scientists to probe biomolecular interactions in new ways. The Monolith NT.115 instrument uses microscale thermophoresis (MST) to quantify interactions between biomolecules.

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BETCy Scientists Participate in EFRC Early Career Network

The EFRC Early Career Network (ECN) is a platform established by the DOE to foster networking among early career scientists in the DOE through a series of virtual and face-to-face meetings. Each year the DOE asks the EFRC directors to nominate early career scientists from their center to serve as representatives on the ECN. Several individuals from BETCy research groups have participated.

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BETCy Promotes Synergy Between Laboratories with its ETC Innovation Award

The BETCy EFRC uses an internal travel award program as one mechanism to promote the development of innovative experimental research while  taking advantage of the unique technical capabilities throughout the center's  research laboratories.  The program, termed the BETCy ETC Innovation Award, for Exploiting Technical Capabilities, solicits proposals from graduate students and other key personnel within the center with the goal to encourage high-risk/high-reward research that exploits the diverse areas of expertise found within the 12 research groups of BETCy. Winning applicants travel to other BETCy laboratories for hands-on learning of new techniques under the mentorship of another BETCy PI. The program helps to synergize interactions between BETCy laboratories in the pursuit of novel avenues of investigation.

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BETCy Scientists Describe Electron Transfer Pathway in Cpl Hydrogenase

BETCy scientists from NREL, MSU, ASU , and UGA published a new paper focused on spectroscopic characterization of CpI, a model [FeFe]-hydrogenase that functions physiologically to produce hydrogen. The article, "The reduction potentials of [FeFe]-hydrogenase accessory iron-sulfur clusters provide insights into the energetics of proton reduction catalysis," appeared in the June 21, 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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BETCy breakthrough featured in Nature Chemical Biology

Paper describes flavin-based electron bifurcation in Nfn An important report by BETCy researchers describing mechanistic details of flavin-based electron bifurcation was published in the April 10, 2017 issue of the journal   Nature Chemical Biology. Flavin-based electron bifurcation has recently gained acceptance as a fundamental mechanism of biological energy conservation. By leveraging a multitude of biophysical techniques across five of BETCy's labs, the energy landscape by which bifurcation occurs in the transhydrogenase enzyme, Nfn, was elucidated.

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WINTER 2017

 
   

Jacob Artz Represents BETCy on EFRC Early Career Network

Jacob Artz, a postdoctoral researcher in the Peters Laboratory, has accepted the nomination to represent BETCy in the EFRC Early Career Network. Dr. Artz, who recently received his doctorate in Chemistry and Biochemistry at Montana State University, was nominated to the ECN by the BETCy Progress Review Panel, BETCy's governing body.

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David Beratan's Laboratory Joins BETCy

We are pleased to announce that David N. Beratan's Laboratory has joined the BETCy research team.  Dr. Beratan, R.J. Reynolds Professor of Chemistry at Duke University, strengthens BETCy's foundation by applying theoretical approaches to understanding the mechanisms underlying electron bifurcation. 

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The Importance of Interdisciplinary Teams 

Dan Colman, a postdoctoral researcher in the Boyd lab, is currently a member of the editorial board to the EFRC newsletter, Frontiers in Energy Research . Below is abridged version of his article entitled The Importance of Interdisciplinary Teams , which was recently highlighted in the FER newsletter.    

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Unique laser-integrated EPR opens new doors for redox center analysis

Many enzymes of interest to BETCy rely on specialized redox active centers that function in electron-transfer and catalysis. The properties of these centers often hold the secrets to the mechanisms behind how these enzymes accomplish energy transformation reactions. Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy is one valuable tool for probing the electronic and molecular properties of these centers. Recent integration of a broad band, high-power pulsed laser (OpoTek Radiant 355 LD) to an Advanced Spin Resonance Spectrometer located at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has enabled new capability for in-situ controlled and timed optical excitation of EPR samples. 

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BETCy PI Anne-Frances Miller Chosen New President of the ACS Division of Biological Chemistry

BETCy principal investigator Anne-Frances Miller was recently chosen to serve as president of the American Chemical Society-Division of Biological Chemistry (ACS- DBS). Miller's two-year term began in January 2017.

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Dynamic Duo: USU Biochemists Identify Tandem Halves of Life-Critical Enzyme
by Mary Ann Muffaletto, Utah State University. Reprinted with permission

Oft-repeated adages praise the virtue and added efficiency of cooperative effort: "Many hands make light work," "Together, we're greater than the sum of our parts" and the like. Utah State University biochemists and colleagues report a tenacious enzyme that uses a similar principle to break nitrogen's unrelenting bonds and convert the life-critical gas into ammonia to fuel the world's food supply.

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FALL 2016

 
   

Scientists from BETCy EFRC describe light-driven conversion of greenhouse gas to fuel

Discovery featured in Scientific American; paper citations are in top 5% BETCy EFRC researchers have used a phototropic bacterium as a biocatalyst to generate methane from carbon dioxide in one enzymatic step. The team says the break-through puts them one step closer to cleanly converting harmful carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion into usable fuels.

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BETCy scientists uncover rate-limiting step in nitrogenase catalytic cycle

In a recent publication, BETCy scientists demonstrated that the rate limiting step in the nitrogenase catalytic cycle is the release of inorganic phosphate. In the BETCy study, the physiological reductant flavodoxin was used to uncover the rate limiting step. This is in contrast to most earlier studies which used dithionite, a nonphysiological reductant, largely because of ease of use. The new study by BETCy puts a fresh perspective on the mechanism of biological nitrogen fixation as it occurs in vivo.

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BETCy publishes classification scheme for [FeFe]-hydrogenases

A team of BETCy researchers led by PI Eric Boyd (Montana State University) recently published a new classification scheme for [FeFe]-hydrogenases. These hydrogenases (Hyd) are a structurally diverse class of enzymes that catalyze the reversible oxidation of hydrogen (H2).  Recently, several Hyd complexes have been shown to catalyze electron bifurcation (EB), whereby two electrons derived from the oxidation of (H2) are split, with one used in the exergonic reduction of the cofactor NAD+ and the other used to catalyze the endergonic reduction of ferredoxin. In the present study, they used bioinformatics approaches informed by biochemical data to identify the structural determinants of Hyd that underpin differences in enzyme functionality, with a particular as they relate to EB capability. 

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BETCy hosts second scientific advisory board meeting

BETCy hosted its second meeting  with its Scientific Advisory Board in Seattle on Sept. 28-29, 2016. The meeting's agenda included a recap of accomplishments and publications, and it provided a forum to lay plans and set priorities for the next year and beyond.

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BETCy researchers present at seminars and conferences

Since the last issue of this newsletter, BETCy research has been presented at the following conferences:

 

Caroline Harwood presented a seminar entitled, "Tackling thermodynamics: coaxing bacteria to release energy-rich compounds."  Seminar was given at the Dept. of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Michigan State University. Sept. 13, 2016.

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Michael Adams presented a plenary lecture entitled "Structure, Function and Evolution of Hydrogen-Evolving, Energy-Conserving Hydrogenases from Hyperthermophiles" at the Extremophiles Conference, Kyoto, Japan, Sept. 12-16, 2016.

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Paul King presented a seminar at the Department of Chemistry, University of California-Davis, Sept. 4, 2016.

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Paul King presented the keynote talk at the 12th Forum Chemical Engineering in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico. September 2016.

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Two members of the Seefelt group presented posters at the Hansen Life Sciences Retreat, Utah State University, Logan, UT, September 2016. Derek Harris presented "Fe-only Nitrogenase," and Rhesa Ledbetter presented "Purification and Characterization of the Electron Bifurcating FixABCX Complex from Azotobacter vinelandii." 

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David Jennings from the Jones group presented a poster entitled "Electrocatalytic Activity of the Electron Bifurcating Enzyme NADH-dependent Reduced Ferredoxin:NADP+ Oxidoreductase (Nfn)" at the 13th European Biological Inorganic Chemistry Conference, Budapest, Hungary, August 2016.

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Cara Lubner from the King group was selected from a poster competition to present the talk "Resolving the Mechanism of Flavin-Based Electron Bifurcation" at the Gordon Research Conference on Electron Donor Acceptor Interactions in Newport, RI, August 7-12, 2016.

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John Peters presented a seminar entitled, "New Insights into the Mechanism of Electron Bifurcating NADH-Dependent Reduced Ferredoxin:NADP Oxidoreductase" at the Gordon Research Conference on Molecular Basis of Microbial One-Carbon Metabolism in Waterville Valley, NH, July 31-August 5, 2016.

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David Mulder from the King group presented a talk and poster, "Mechanistic Investigations on Electron Bifurcation by EPR Spectroscopy" at the EPR Symposium as part of the Rocky Mountain Conference on Magnetic Resonance, Breckenridge, CO, July 17-21, 2016.

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Several BETCy scientists presented at the 11th International Hydrogenase Conference, Marseille, France, July 10-14, 2016. Anne Jones presented a seminar entitled, "Defining Functional Diversity of [FeFe]-Hydrogenases Electrochemically." Jacob Artz from the Peters group presented a poster entitled, "Structural Determinants of Catalytic Bias in [FeFe]-Hydrogenases as Revealed by Potentiometric EPR Spectral Deconvolution," and Saroj Poudel from the Boyd group presented a poster entitled, "Unification of [FeFe]-Hydrogenases into Three Structural and Functional Groups."

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John Hoben from the Miller group presented a poster entitled "Fleeting Flavin Intermediates: Understanding Lifetimes Ranging over Three Orders of Magnitude in Terms of Electron Transfer and Charge Recombination" at the Gordon Research Conference on Enzymes, Coenzymes and Metabolic Pathways in Waterville Valley NH, 24-29 July 2016 and the associated Gordon Research Seminar on July 23-24. 

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Several members of the Peters group presented at the Northwest Crystallography Workshop, in Pullman, WA, June 17-19, 2016: Jacob Artz presented a poster entitled, "Structural determinants of catalytic bias in [FeFe]-hydrogenases as revealed by potentiometric EPR spectral deconvolution," Jacquelyn Miller presented a poster entitled, "Structural determinants of bifurcation in energy conserving electron transferring flavoproteins," Natasha Pence presented a poster entitled, "Identifying protein-protein interactions that facilitate electron transfer between the nitrogenase Fe protein and its physiological reductant flavodoxin from Azotobacter vinelandii," and Oleg Zadvornyy gave a seminar entitled, "Electron bifucation: structural insights into NADH-dependent ferredoxin NADP oxidoreductase (NfnI) from Pyrococcus furiosis."

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Paul King presented a poster at the poster at the GRC on Metallocofactors in Easton, MA, June 12-17, 2016.

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Monika Tokmina-Lukaszewska from the Bothner group presented the talk "Characterization of a Nitogenase Complex from Azotobacter Vinelandii in Gas Phase Using Native Mass Spectrometry and Ion Mobility" at the 64th Conference on Mass Spectrometry and Allied Topics in San Antonio, TX, Jun 5-9 2016.

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Kathryn Fixen from the Harwood group presented a seminar entitled "Shining Light on How a Photosynthetic Bacterium Works" at the University of Washington, June 2, 2016, Seattle, WA.

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Garrett Williams from the Jones group presented "Determinants of Catalytic Bias in [FeFe]-Hydrogenases" at the Penn State Bioinorganic Workshop, June 2 - 10, 2016.

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Two members of the Adams group presented at the University of Georgia Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Retreat at Unicoi State Park, GA, May 15-16, 2016. Gerrit Schut presented a poster entitled, "Bifurcating Hydrogenases - the Role of Electron Transfer Conduits in Gating Electron Transfer," and Diep Nguyen presented a poster entitled, "Bifurcating Nfn - a Simplified Model System to Examine the Structural Basis for Electron Bifurcation."

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SUMMER 2016

 
   

BETCy scientists publish in Science on nitrogen reduction using light energy

BETCy EFRC investigators recently published a paper in Science that outlines a way to make ammonia in the lab using nitrogenase enzyme but without the high-energy input of ATP that nitrogenase typically requires. Ammonia, a component of fertilizer, is produced industrially by the energy-intensive Haber-Bosch process, a process that is estimated to consume approximately 1-2% of the world's annual energy budget.

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BETCy researchers publish review on electron bifurcation

Five BETCy EFRC investigators recently co-authored a review on electron bifurcation. The review explains how bifurcating systems conserve energy in microbial metabolism and briefly chronicles some of the early work that led to the first description of electron bifurcation. The paper touches on the role of bifurcating enzymes in balancing the electron flow associated with the pyridine nucleotide pools and regulating the balance of catabolism and anabolism in metabolism. It also includes a discussion of how the unique redox properties of flavin cofactors facilitate electron bifurcation. 

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Dan Colman of Montana State University chosen for editorial board of EFRC newsletter

Dan Colman, a postdoctoral researcher in Eric Boyd's group at Montana State University, was recently chosen to serve on the editorial board of the EFRC electronic newsletter, Frontiers in Energy Research. Colman continues BETCy's tradition of nominating energetic young scientists to write for the newsletter.

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Students participate in NanoDays outreach event

Students from the John Peters lab participated in Montana State University's annual NanoDays event, a celebration of small-scale science and engineering, held on Feb. 29, 2016.

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BETCy researchers present at seminars and conferences


July - December 2015

Eric Boyd presented "New Insights into the Evolution of Biological Nitrogen Fixation" at the GRC Cell Biology of Metals, July 2015, West Dover, Vermont.

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Anne-Frances Miller presented "One Man's Trash Is an Enzyme's Substrate: Mechanistic and Structural Features of a Promiscuous Enzyme" at the Gordon Research Conference on Enzymes, Coenzymes and Metabolic Pathways. July 12-17, 2015, Waterville Valley, NH.

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Saroj Poudel (Boyd Group) presented "Identifying the structural determinants that influence the  directionality and function of [FeFe]-hydrogenase" at the GRC Cell Biology of Metals, July 2015, West Dover, Vermont.

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Michael Adams presented an invited talk entitled "Engineering Thermophiles to Produce Liquid Fuels",at theThermophiles 2015 Conference, Aug. 29, 2015, Santiago, Chile.

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John Peters presented at the Society for Industrial Microbiology Meeting in Philadelphia, PA, Aug. 4, 2015, 

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John Peters presented at the Thermophiles Conference in Santiago, Chile, Aug. 30 - Sept 4, 2015, 

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Lance Seefeldt presented "Insights into the Nitrogenase Mechanism" at the Molybdenum & Tungsten Enzymes Conference 2015. Sept. 6-10, 2015, Balatonfüred, Hungary.

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Anne-Frances Miller presented "Flavins at the Foundation of Life" at the Midwest Enzyme Chemistry Conference. Sept. 12, 2015, Chicago, IL.

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Anne-Frances Miller presented "How proteins control electrons: protons" at the Department of Chemistry, Mississippi State University, Sept. 25, 2015.

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John Peters, Caroline Harwood, Lance Seefeldt, and members of the Seefeldt research group, Sudipta Shaw, Zhiyong Yang and Nimesh Khadka attended and made presentations at the 19th International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation. Asilomar, CA, Oct. 4-9, 2015.

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January - June 2016

Anne-Frances Miller and members of her research group, Karl Hempel, Zachary Griffith, John Patrick Hoben, presented the poster "Producing Reactive Intermediates via Photodriven Electron Transfer" at Posters at the Capitol, Feb. 25, 2016. Frankfort, KY 

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Anne Katherine Jones presented the talk "Biological and Bio-Inspired Electrocatalysis : Electrochemical Solution to Energy Challenges" at a University of California at Irvine Colloquium, March 2016.

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David Jennings, from the Jones Research Group presented a seminar entitled "Electrocatalytic Activity of the Electron Bifurcating Enzyme NADH-dependent Reduced Ferredoxin:NADP+ Oxidoreductase (Nfn)" at the Spring ACS Conferences, San Diego, CA, March 2016.

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Michael Adams presented a seminar entitled "Engineering Hyperthermophiles to Produce Liquid Fuels and Chemicals" at the University of Illinois Department of Microbiology, March 17, 2016.

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Karl Hempel, Zachary Griffith, John Patrick Hoben, and Anne-Frances Miller presented a poster, "Producing Reactive Intermediates via Photodriven Electron Transfer," selected from 4000 applicants, at  NCUR 30 at the University of North Carolina Asheville , April 7-9 , 2016 Asheville, NC. 

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Karl Hempel, Zachary Griffith, John Patrick Hoben and Anne-Frances Miller presented a poster, "Producing Reactive Intermediates via Photodriven Electron Transfer," at the Southeast Enzyme Conference, April 16, Atlanta, GA. 

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Haijun Diessel Duan from the Miller Group presented "Cloning and Soluble Expression of Bifurcating Electron Transfer Flavoprotein FixAB from Diazotroph Rhodopseudomonas palustris"  at theSoutheast Enzyme Conference, Atlanta, GA. April 16, 2016.

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John Hoben from the Miller Group presented "An Approach for Generating and Characterizing Semiquinone Intermediates Proposed to be Critical to Electron Transfer in Flavin Dependent Nitroreductase" at the Southeast Enzyme Conference, Atlanta, GA. April 16, 2016.

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WINTER 2016

 
   

BETCy scientists chosen for editorial board of Frontiers in Energy Research

Several BETCy scientists have been chosen to serve on the editorial board of the Energy Frontier Research Centers's newsletter, Frontiers in Energy Research. Most recently, Rhesa Ledbetter, who is a graduate student in the BETCy's Seefeldt research group, was selected to serve on the board. Board members serve for 6-9 months and typically write articles for several issues of the newsletter. When asked about her recent appointment, Ms. Ledbetter said, "I am excited to serve on the editorial board for Frontiers in Energy Research, as this experience will allow me to bridge my passion for science and education through writing." 

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BETCY researchers publish review on the Evolution of Respiratory Complex I

In an upcoming paper published in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta., BETCy scientists will provide an extensive review on the evolution of the ubiquitous respiratory complex, Complex I, based on their studies with hydrogen-evolving membrane-bound hydrogenases.

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BETCY scientists meet at NREL to probe the catalytic and redox properties of [FeFe]-hydrogenase

For the week of Nov. 30 to Dec. 4, Jacob Artz, a fourth-year graduate student from MSU (Peters lab), and Garret Williams, a second-year graduate student from ASU (Jones lab), met with staff scientists Mike Ratzloff and David Mulder at NREL (King lab), in order to perform a new suite of difficult experiments. The visit was designed in order to utilize a variety of expertise and equipment, specifically the new EPR center at NREL.  NREL's new instrument, the Advanced Spin Resonance Spectrometer (ASRS), was highlighted in the Fall 2015 issue of the BETCy e-Newsletter.

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Get to know EFRC scientists tackling energy challenges in the Winter 2015 issue of  Frontiers in Energy Research  

Rhesa Ledbetter, a graduate student in the BETCy EFRC laboratory of Lance Seefeldt at Utah State University, currently sits on the editorial board of the EFRC newsletter Frontiers in Energy Research. Rhesa's recent article in Frontiers profiles five EFRC scientists and explores how family, teachers, and a young inmate have inspired their work. A synopsis of her article follows.

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BETCy scientists help organize the 19th International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation

BETCy Director John Peters and BETCy PIs Lance Seefeldt and Caroline Harwood took part in the 19th International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation (ICNF), Oct. 4-9 at the historic Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, Calif.  BETCy Program Manager Robert Stack also attended.  

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FALL 2015

 
   

BETCy Web-based Tracking System in Beta-testing Phase

For several months the BETCy-EFRC has been developing a new web-based tracking system to catalog and report progress on specific protein targets that will help us unlock fundamental scientific questions about bifurcation, catalytic bias and electron flow. A beta version of BETCy Project Reporting & Information Database, or BETCy PRIDe, was launched center-wide for internal testing and training.  

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BETCy researchers present across the globe

Researchers affiliated with the BETCy EFRC have been giving presentations across the globe, from China to Chile and from Mississippi to Vermont. Below is a sampling of talks and presenters.

Michael Adams presented the invited talk entitled "Engineering a Hyperthermophilic Archaeon to Produce Fuels and Chemicals"on March 11, 2015 at NREL, Golden, CO.

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Warintra Pitsawong and Anne-Frances Miller presented "H Transfer Coupled to e- Transfer in Nitroreductase" at the Southeast Enzyme Conference, April 11, 2015, Atlanta GA.

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Michael Adams presented an invited talk entitled "Engineering Hyperthermophiles to Produce Fuels and Chemicals", Beijing University of Chemical Technology, Beijing, May 20, 2015. 

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Michael Adams  presented an invited talk entitled "Engineering Hyperthermophiles to Produce Fuels and Chemicals", Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, June 5, 2015.

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John Peters presented the talk entitled "Evolution of modern respiration", at the Northwest Regional ACS Meeting in Pocatello, ID, June 21 - 24, 2015.

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Eric Boyd presented "New Insights into the Evolution of Biological Nitrogen Fixation" at the GRC Cell Biology of Metals, July 2015, West Dover, Vermont.

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Anne-Frances Miller presented "One Man's Trash Is an Enzyme's Substrate: Mechanistic and Structural Features of a Promiscuous Enzyme" at the Gordon Research Conference on Enzymes, Coenzymes and Metabolic Pathways. July 12-17, 2015, Waterville Valley NH.

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Saroj Poudel  (Boyd Group) presented "Identifying the structural determinants that influence the  directionality and function of [FeFe]-hydrogenase" at the GRC Cell Biology of Metals, July 2015, West Dover, Vermont.

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Michael Adams  presented an invited talk entitled "Engineering Thermophiles to Produce Liquid Fuels", Thermophiles 2015 Conference, Aug. 29, 2015, Santiago, Chile.

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John Peters  presented at the Society for Industrial Microbiology Meeting in Philadelphia, PA, Aug. 4, 2015, 

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John Peters  presented at the Thermophiles Conference in Santiago, Chile, Aug. 30 - Sept 4, 2015, 

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Anne-Frances Miller  presented "Flavins at the Foundation of Life" at the Midwest Enzyme Chemistry Conference. Sept. 12, 2015, Chicago IL.

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Anne-Frances Miller  presented "How proteins control electrons: protons" at the Department of Chemistry, Mississippi State University, Sept. 25, 2015.

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AJ Rasmussen is first recipient of BETCy ETC Innovation awardETC

AJ Rasmussen, who is a graduate student in the BETCy's Seefeldt research group, was the first recipient of the BETCy ETC Innovation award. Established by the Directors of BETCy, the purpose of ETC award is to E xploit T echnical C apabilities (ETC) and foster innovations and synergistic interactions between the 11 research groups in the BETCy EFRC. Applicants for the ETC award are asked to write a short proposal describing their proposed project, and awardees are granted supplementary travel funds to perform the research.

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NREL installs advanced EPR instrument  

Advanced Spin Resonance High Resolution Spectrometer. The Advanced Spin Resonance Spectrometer (ASRS) located at NREL will bring cutting edge electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopic techniques to BETCy. The core of the ASRS is a Bruker ELEXSYS E580 with multi-frequency, multi-resonance, and variable temperature capabilities for probing electronic and molecular properties of Flavin and FeS electron transfer centers, and metalloenzyme catalytic sites. The multi-frequency capability (X- and Q-bands) along with pulse techniques will enable new approaches to systematically analyze and resolve complex EPR signals that arise from multiple paramagnetic centers found in bifurcating enzymes. Low-temperature (<80K) is required for EPR studies of metallo-clusters, and the ASRS is equipped with cryogen-free cryostats, providing on-demand access to temperatures of 4K.

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Cara Lubner promoted to staff scientist at NREL  

Cara Lubner joined NREL and BETCy as a postdoc in the fall of 2014 and recently converted to a full time staff scientist. She works in Paul King's research group at NREL. She previously studied photosynthetic electron transfer and the catalytic production of hydrogen in John Golbeck's lab at Penn State. For the past year, Cara has been probing flavin intermediate states in several flavoproteins and bifurcating enzymes using ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy (TAS), together with other biophysical techniques. As she continues to work at NREL as a member of BETCy, Cara looks forward to applying her expertise in ultrafast laser spectroscopy towards uncovering the mysteries of electron bifurcation.

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SPRING 2015

 
   

DOE Awards $100 Million for Innovative Energy Research; BETCy EFRC launched at Montana State

Montana State University is leading a group of scientists from seven institutions who have earned a $10-million, four-year federal research grant to hunt for breakthroughs in producing more energy from biofuels. The Biological Electron Transfer and Catalysis (BETCy) center was named by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz as part of a $100 million funding package for Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) to accelerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to build the 21st-century energy economy.

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BETCy research team gathers at Montana State University

The BETCy EFRC research team gathered for the first time on the MSU campus in Bozeman Aug. 27-28 to begin plans for its four-year Department of Energy-funded project.

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BETCy team members collaborate on research methodologies at NREL workshop

Scientists from the Biological Electron Transfer and Catalysis (BETCy) Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) recently met at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.  The five-day workshop was designed to build team synergy and give team members the opportunity to share methodologies.  The goal was to develop new strategies first hand in the laboratory for moving forward on the Center's goal of researching bifurcating enzymes.

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Missouri- and Montana-based EFRCs form outreach partnership

Hands-on educational materials developed at the Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center (PARC) Energy Frontier Research Center recently made the long trek to Montana to support teachers affiliated with the Montana Small Schools Association. MSSA is the Montana affiliate of the National Rural Educators Association and is a professional development organization designed to support Montana's rural schools. Forty-five of Montana's 56 counties are considered frontier (less than 6 people per square mile), and Montana has more one-room schools than any other state in the U.S. (Nebraska is second). One of the MSSA member schools has just two students!

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Montana State's Stephen Keable receives DOE Graduate Student Research Award

Stephen Keable, a graduate student in chemistry/biochemistry at Montana State University and a member of the John Peters Lab group, has received a Graduate Student Research award from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. The program is designed to prepare graduate students for science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) careers in areas that are critically important to the DOE Office of Science mission. 

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BETCy researchers published in PNAS

Congratulations to authors from BETCy EFRC who were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Goniometer-based femtosecond crystallography with X-ray free electron lasers" was co-authored by John Peters, Stephen Keable, and Oleg A. Zadvornyy of Montana State University along with several other collaborators.

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BETCy researchers publish comprehensive review on hydrogenases

BETCy EFRC Director John Peters and three other BETCy Principal Investigators recently published a comprehensive review covering the scope of diversity, mechanism, and maturation for [FeFe]- and [NiFe]-hydrogenases. The paper couples the distribution of these hydrogenases with the latest insights and future challenges of research on the mechanism of reversible hydrogen oxidation and the biosynthesis and maturation of the active site metal clusters.

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