Study finds particles, molecules prefer not to mix

In the world of small things, shape, order and orientation are surprisingly important, according to findings from a new study by chemists at Washington University in St. Louis. Lev Gelb, WUSTL associate professor of chemistry, his graduate student Brian Barnes, and postdoctoral researcher Daniel Siderius, used computer simulations to study a very simple model of molecules on surfaces, which looks a lot like the computer game “Tetris.” They have found that the shapes in this model (and in the game) do a number of surprising things.

Technology identified could reduce the spread of rice virus

National Science FoundationBuilding on plant virus research started more than 20 years ago, a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis and his colleague at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis have discovered a technology that reduces infection by the virus that causes Rice Tungro Disease, a serious limiting factor for rice production in Asia.

Chemist receives funding to unravel tricks of neuronal wiring

Joshua Maurer, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has received a four-year, $1,216,000 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health for research titled, “Unraveling Development: New Materials for Understanding Neuronal Wiring.” Maurer’s long term objective is to develop methodology that allows the study of a variety of neuronal wiring processes. He is starting by unscrambling a phenomenon known as midline crossing using zebrafish. During development, neurons from the right eye cross the midline of the brain to make a connection in the left hemisphere.

Researchers identify proteins making up mechanosensitive ion channels

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are the first to identify two proteins responsible for mechanosensitive ion channel activities in plant roots. Scientists have long known that plant cells respond to physical forces. Until now, however, the proteins controlling the ion channel response remained a mystery.

NIH grants enable energy studies

David Kilper/WUSTL Photo(Left to right) Cindy Richard-Fogal, Ph.D., research scientist in biology in Arts & Sciences, Elaine Frawley, graduate research assistant, and Robert Kranz, Ph.D., professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, examine an *E. coli* culture.Robert G. Kranz, Ph.D., professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has been awarded two grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study pathways in bioenergy conversion. The first, for $1,203,250, is a long-term NIH R01 renewal that began Aug. 1 titled “Cytochrome c Biogenesis.” The renewal award means that NIH has funded Kranz continuously for 22 years.

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.

Pathway toward gene silencing described in plants

Olga Pontes is Going FISHin’.Biologists at Washington University in St. Louis have made an important breakthrough in understanding a pathway plant cells take to silence unwanted or extra genes using short bits of RNA. Basically, they have made it possible to see where, and how, the events in the pathway unfold within the cell, and seeing is believing, as the old saying goes. Craig Pikaard, Ph.D., Washington University professor of biology in Arts & Sciences and his collaborators have described the roles that eight proteins in Arabidopsis plants play in a pathway that brings about DNA methylation, an epigenetic function that involves a chemical modification of cytosine, one of the four chemical subunits of DNA. More…

Researchers find protein that silences genes

Olga Pontes & Craig PikaardThe protein HDA6 shows up as a red stain in this Arabidopsis leaf cell nucleus.A team of researchers, including biologists at Washington University in St. Louis, has discovered the key role one protein plays in a major turn-off — in this case, the turning off of thousands of nearly identical genes in a hybrid plant. Studying the phenomenon of nucleolar dominance, in which one parental set of ribosomal genes in a hybrid is silenced, Craig Pikaard, Ph.D., Washington University professor of biology in Arts & Sciences and colleagues have identified the protein HDA6 as an important player in the silencing. More…

Researchers find mutiple proteins that stick to medical devices

Photo by David Kilper / WUSTL PhotoScott (left) and Elbert looking for sticky proteins.Biomedical engineers at Washington University in St. Louis have found a new role for the blood protein serum amyloid P in the body’s response to medical materials, which may help to explain a variety of problems associated with heart-lung bypass, hemodialysis and the use of artificial vascular grafts. Donald Elbert, Ph.D., Washington University assistant professor of biomedical engineering, used advanced protein separations and mass spectrometry to track the proteins on the surfaces of various polymers used in medical devices. The analysis techniques, collectively called ‘proteomics,’ are most often used to study protein expression in cells.

New type of RNA polymerase discovered in plants

*Arabidopsis thaliana*A team headed by Craig Pikaard, Ph.D., Washington University professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, has discovered a fourth kind of RNA polymerase found only in plants and speculated to have been a plant feature for more than 200 million years.