Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Structure of bacterial nanowire protein hints at secrets of conduction: Electrically conducting bacteria important for energy, environment and technology

Zooming in on the Geobacter-Gonorrhea composite shows how the aromatic residues (teal balloon-like structures) bulge from the surface of pilin proteins (variously colored helical structures) within the fiber.
Zooming in on the Geobacter-Gonorrhea composite shows how the aromatic residues (teal balloon-like structures) bulge from the surface of pilin proteins (variously colored helical structures) within the fiber.

Abstract:
Tiny electrical wires protrude from some bacteria and contribute to rock and dirt formation. Researchers studying the protein that makes up one such wire have determined the protein's structure. The finding is important to such diverse fields as producing energy, recycling Earth's carbon and miniaturizing computers.

Structure of bacterial nanowire protein hints at secrets of conduction: Electrically conducting bacteria important for energy, environment and technology

Richland, WA | Posted on November 12th, 2013

"This is the first atomic resolution structure of this protein from an electrically conductive bacterial species, and it sets the foundation for understanding how these nanowires work," said structural biologist Patrick Reardon of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Reardon is the 2012 William R. Wiley Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow at EMSL, the DOE's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at PNNL.

With the help of related structures on disease-causing bacteria, the researchers show that the protein's shape and form suggest possible ways for the bacteria to shuttle electrons along the nanowire. The results were reported in October in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

"How to get electrons from the inside of bacteria to the outside is important for many different things, such as bacterial fuel cells, how carbon cycles through the environment and how to make new nanomaterials for applications like biocomputers," said Reardon.

Aromatic Therapy

Many bacterial species wave fingerlike projections along their bodies. The bacteria use these fingers, called pili, to adhere to surfaces or weave into films or recognize objects in the environment. A group of related bacteria makes these bendy, stretchy structures out of a protein called pilin, and an even smaller group uses these structures like electrical wires.

Researchers and engineers would like to take advantage of this wiring. Bacteria produce electrons while respiring and use the wires to run electrons out of their little bacterial bodies. Normally the electrons build up or break down minerals in rock, but the system can also be used to clean up toxic heavy metals or to run a bacterial fuel cell.

To better understand how pilins contribute to conduction, Reardon and NMR lead scientist Karl Mueller explored pilin from an electrically conducting bacteria known as Geobacter sulfurreducens.

Previous research on Geobacter's pilin — PilA — provided a big hint. PilA required certain spots along its length known as aromatic residues to conduct electricity. Without those aromatic residues where they were, Geobacter had no zip in its pili.

But proteins are like a long string that folds up into a compact three-dimensional shape. Without knowing the shape of pilin, it wasn't clear where the aromatic residues landed in space or how they contributed to electron shuttling.

Hop or Flow?

To find out, the researchers used NMR — a technology similar to medical MRIs — at EMSL to picture the shape of PilA.

On its own, PilA looks like a long skinny spring, with a slight kink about halfway up. The aromatic residues, which are bulky anyway, bulge along its length. But the protein by itself isn't enough to reveal how conduction works. Many pilin proteins work together to form a fiber, and Reardon and Mueller only had one.

Nor did the researchers have the whole fiber to put into the NMR instrument. To get more clues, Reardon borrowed the computer image of an assembled fiber from an unrelated species, the bacteria that cause gonorrhea. Gonorrhea's fiber does not conduct electricity nor does its pilin have as many aromatic residues. But its pilin has a similar shape to PilA, so using a computer program, Reardon overlaid PilA on its Gonorrhea cousins.

At this point, the aromatic residues clearly stood out.

"We get clusters of aromatic residues, and they wrap along the wire candy cane style," said Reardon.

But that just raised another question. If the electrons traveling along Geobacter's pilin are using these aromatic residues, they could be hopping from aromatic island to aromatic island. Alternatively, the aromatic residues could be close enough to pass the electrons through like a baton in a running race. Reardon and Mueller agree the single structure is not enough to choose between the two options.

The next step, Mueller said, is to purify the whole fiber from Geobacter microbes and determine the complete structure. The task is technologically challenging however because the fiber has to be grown within the bacteria themselves. Visualizing the whole fiber, though, will show the scientists if the fiber resembles islands in a stream more, or the streambed itself.

This work was supported by the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

####

About DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of about $950 million. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy. For more information, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, is a national scientific user facility sponsored by the Department of Energy's Office of Science. Located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., EMSL offers an open, collaborative environment for scientific discovery to researchers around the world. Its integrated computational and experimental resources enable researchers to realize important scientific insights and create new technologies. Follow EMSL on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

The Department of Energy's 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 click here

Contacts:
Mary Beckman

509-375-3688

Copyright © DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

Reference: Patrick N. Reardon, and Karl T. Mueller. Structure of the Type IVa Major Pilin from the Electrically Conductive Bacterial Nanowires of Geobacter sulfurreducens, J. Biol. Chem. Oct. 11, 2013, DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M113.498527:

Related News Press

News and information

Nano-supercapacitors for electric cars July 25th, 2014

New imaging agent provides better picture of the gut July 25th, 2014

Breakthrough laser experiment reveals liquid-like motion of atoms in an ultra-cold cluster: University of Leicester research team unlocks insights into creation of new nano-materials July 25th, 2014

Scientists Test Nanoparticle "Alarm Clock" to Awaken Immune Systems Put to Sleep by Cancer July 25th, 2014

Laboratories

NIST shows ultrasonically propelled nanorods spin dizzyingly fast July 22nd, 2014

Sono-Tek Corporation Announces New Clean Room Rated Laboratory Facility in China July 18th, 2014

Videos/Movies

More than glitter: Scientists explain how gold nanoparticles easily penetrate cells, making them useful for delivering drugs July 21st, 2014

"Nanocamera" takes pictures at distances smaller than light's own wavelength: How is it possible to record optically encoded information for distances smaller than the wavelength of light? July 17th, 2014

CIQUS researchers develop an extremely simple procedure to obtain nanosized graphenes July 15th, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

New imaging agent provides better picture of the gut July 25th, 2014

A*STAR and industry form S$200M semiconductor R&D July 25th, 2014

NNCO Announces an Interactive Webinar: Progress Review on the Coordinated Implementation of the National Nanotechnology Initiative 2011 Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Strategy July 23rd, 2014

Nano-sized Chip "Sniffs Out" Explosives Far Better than Trained Dogs: TAU researcher's groundbreaking sensor detects miniscule concentrations of hazardous materials in the air July 23rd, 2014

Chip Technology

A*STAR and industry form S$200M semiconductor R&D July 25th, 2014

A Crystal Wedding in the Nanocosmos July 23rd, 2014

Nanometrics Announces Upcoming Investor Events July 22nd, 2014

Penn Study: Understanding Graphene’s Electrical Properties on an Atomic Level July 22nd, 2014

Discoveries

New imaging agent provides better picture of the gut July 25th, 2014

Breakthrough laser experiment reveals liquid-like motion of atoms in an ultra-cold cluster: University of Leicester research team unlocks insights into creation of new nano-materials July 25th, 2014

Scientists Test Nanoparticle "Alarm Clock" to Awaken Immune Systems Put to Sleep by Cancer July 25th, 2014

Iranian Scientists Produce Transparent Nanocomposite Coatings with Longer Lifetime July 24th, 2014

Announcements

Nano-supercapacitors for electric cars July 25th, 2014

New imaging agent provides better picture of the gut July 25th, 2014

Breakthrough laser experiment reveals liquid-like motion of atoms in an ultra-cold cluster: University of Leicester research team unlocks insights into creation of new nano-materials July 25th, 2014

Scientists Test Nanoparticle "Alarm Clock" to Awaken Immune Systems Put to Sleep by Cancer July 25th, 2014

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals

Silicene Labs Announces the Launch of 2D Materials Briefing Book™ and 2D Materials Road-Heat Map™: Contributors Include One of the World's Foremost 2D Materials Scientists July 25th, 2014

New imaging agent provides better picture of the gut July 25th, 2014

Breakthrough laser experiment reveals liquid-like motion of atoms in an ultra-cold cluster: University of Leicester research team unlocks insights into creation of new nano-materials July 25th, 2014

Scientists Test Nanoparticle "Alarm Clock" to Awaken Immune Systems Put to Sleep by Cancer July 25th, 2014

Environment

Researchers Use Various Zinc Oxide Nanostructures to Boost Efficiency of Water Purification Process July 13th, 2014

Using Sand to Improve Battery Performance: Researchers develop low cost, environmentally friendly way to produce sand-based lithium ion batteries that outperform standard by three times July 8th, 2014

Development of an interactive tool for the implementation of environmental legislation for nanoparticles manufacturers July 4th, 2014

Up in Flames: Evidence Confirms Combustion Theory: Berkeley Lab and University of Hawaii research outlines the story of soot, with implications for cleaner-burning fuels July 1st, 2014

Energy

Oregon chemists eye improved thin films with metal substitution: Solution-based inorganic process could drive more efficient electronics and solar devices July 21st, 2014

Steam from the sun: New spongelike structure converts solar energy into steam July 21st, 2014

3-D nanostructure could benefit nanoelectronics, gas storage: Rice U. researchers predict functional advantages of 3-D boron nitride July 15th, 2014

Nanotechnology that will impact the Security & Defense sectors to be discussed at NanoSD2014 conference July 8th, 2014

Nanobiotechnology

Scientists Test Nanoparticle "Alarm Clock" to Awaken Immune Systems Put to Sleep by Cancer July 25th, 2014

Production of Non-Virus Nanocarriers with Highest Amount of Gene Delivery July 17th, 2014

Physicists Use Computer Models to Reveal Quantum Effects in Biological Oxygen Transport: The team solved a long-standing question by explaining why oxygen – and not deadly carbon monoxide – preferably binds to the proteins that transport it around the body. July 17th, 2014

Tiny DNA pyramids enter bacteria easily -- and deliver a deadly payload July 9th, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE