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Postcards from the Photosynthetic Edge

Photosytem II utilizes a water-splitting manganese-calcium enzyme that when energized by sunlight catalyzes a four photon-step cycle of oxidation states that ultimately yields molecular oxygen.

Using the world’s most powerful x-ray laser, an international collaboration led by Berkeley Lab researchers took femtosecond “snapshots” of water oxidation in photosystem II, the only known biological system able to harness sunlight for splitting the water molecule. The results should help advance the development of artificial photosynthesis for clean, green and renewable energy.

New Discovery in Living Cell Signaling

This gif of membrane-anchored Ras (red) and individual SOS molecules (green) shows individual SOS molecules corralled into 
nanofabricated patches where all the membrane-associated Ras molecules they activate can be trapped.

A breakthrough discovery into how living cells process and respond to chemical information could help advance the development of treatments for a large number of cancers and other cellular disorders that have been resistant to therapy.

Berkeley Lab’s Jennifer Doudna Gives a CRISPR Interview on NPR

Doudna photo

Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, was recently interviewed on National Public Radio by Joe Palca for a segment on All Things Considered. The topic was CRISPR, an important new tool for genetic engineering.

New Clues to Why Older Women are More Vulnerable to Breast Cancer

These fluorescent images of human mammary epithelial cells exemplify the effects of aging. In the left image, multipotent progenitor cells from a 19-year-old young woman respond to a tumor-mimicking stiff surface by differentiating into red-colored tumor-suppressing myoepithelial cells. In the right image, progenitor cells from a 66-year-old woman fail to launch this putative cancer-fighting response when exposed to a stiff surface. (Credit: Pelissier/LaBarge)

Berkeley Lab scientists have gained more insights into why older women are more susceptible to breast cancer. They found that as women age, the cells responsible for maintaining healthy breast tissue stop responding to their immediate surroundings, including mechanical cues that should prompt them to suppress nearby tumors.

New Details on Microtubules and How the Anti-Cancer Drug Taxol Works

The most detailed look ever at the assembly and disassembly of microtubules, tiny fibers of tubulin protein that play a crucial role in cell division, provides new insight into the success of the anti-cancer drug Taxol.

Berkeley Lab researchers have produced images of microtubule assembly and disassembly at the unprecedented resolution of 5 angstroms, providing new insight into the success of the anti-cancer drug Taxol and pointing the way to possible improvements.

All in the Rotation

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Berkeley Lab researchers have shed new light on a type of molecular motor used to package the DNA of a number of viruses, including herpes and the adenoviruses. Their findings could help in the development of more effective drugs and inspire the design of new and improved synthetic biomotors.

Berkeley Lab Researchers Demonstrate First Size-based Chromatography Technique for the Study of Living Cells

Using nanodot technology, Berkeley Lab researchers demonstrated the first size-based form of chromatography for studying the membranes of living cells. This unique physical approach to probing cellular membrane structures reveals critical information that can’t be obtained through conventional microscopy.

Berkeley Lab’s Adam Arkin Wins 2013 Lawrence Award

Adam Arkin, director of Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, has been named one of six recipients of the 2013 Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

What About BOB?

The Berkeley Open Biofoundry – BOB – is a Berkeley Lab proposal to DARPA aimed at providing the science and technology that will enable the engineering of biological systems to produce valuable chemical products on a commercial scale.

New Technique for Identifying Gene-Enhancers

Berkeley Lab researchers led the development of a new technique for identifying gene enhancers – sequences of DNA that act to amplify the expression of a specific gene – in the genomes of humans and other mammals. Called SIF-seq, this new technique complements existing genomic tools, such as ChIP-seq, and offers additional benefits.