Bacteria may contribute to premature births, STDs

New research at the School of Medicine points to a common species of bacteria as an important contributor to bacterial vaginosis, a condition linked to preterm birth and increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Pictured is a single cell of the bacteria that may be causing the problem, Gardnerella vaginalis.

Protein enables discovery of quantum effect in photosynthesis

Photosynthesis transforms light, carbon dioxide and water into chemical energy in plants and some bacteria.When it comes to studying energy transfer in photosynthesis, it’s good to think “outside the bun.” That’s what Robert Blankenship, Ph.D., professor of biology and chemistry in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, did when he contributed a protein that he calls the taco shell protein to a study performed by his collaborators at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley. The protein enabled the surprising discovery of a quantum effect in photosynthesis.

Acid-resistant bug doesn’t give in to alcohol either

A chemist at Washington University in St. Louis has found surprisingly tough enzymes in a bacterium that “just says no to acid.” Acid resistance is a valued trait for both pills and human pathogens. The bacterium Acetobacter aceti makes unusually acid-resistant enzymes in spades, which could make the organism a source for new enzyme products and new directions in protein chemistry.