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Biological Sciences
We perform Biological Systems Science research using prediction and experimentation to understand the design of biological systems, translating the genome to functional capabilities for applications to energy, environment, and health. Microbial community research at PNNL is focusing on environment and energy processes, and rational design and development of new bioprocesses, while our health-related research is centering on how multicellular systems, tissues and organisms respond to disease and exposure to the environment.

SALVI technology

Window into Liquid Analysis Earns PNNL an R&D 100 Award

Many studies rely on knowing precisely how solids and liquids interact on a molecular level, but liquids evaporate in the vacuum of certain powerful scientific instruments. PNNL developed SALVI, or the System for Analysis at the Liquid Vacuum Interface, that for the first time allows these instruments to image liquid samples in real time. R&D Magazine honored SALVI’s research team with a 2014 R&D 100 award. The magazine selects the 100 most innovative scientific and technological breakthroughs of the year.



A Bug's Leaf

A team from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center is using metabolomic and metaproteomic techniques to examine the dynamics of nutrient turnover in the gardens of leaf-cutter ants. These herbivores, found in ecosystems throughout the Neotropics, feed on fungus gardens cultivated on fresh foliar biomass. The team found that many free amino acids and sugars are depleted during biomass degradation, indicating that easily accessible nutrients from plant material are readily consumed by microbes in these ecosystems. These studies provide insights that could lead to technology to convert cellulosic biomass to ethanol and other advanced biofuels.



Brian Thrall Named Associate Editor of New Nano Journal

Congratulations to Dr. Brian Thrall, a scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, on being selected as an associate editor of Nanobiomedicine, an international, peer-reviewed, open-access scientific journal that premiers in July. Nanobiomedicine will publish significant contributions in the cross-disciplinary area intersecting nanotechnology with biomedicine, with particular interest in the applicability of these discoveries and advances.



 analytical workflow of redox proteomics, as developed by PNNL scientists

Resin-assisted Method Is a Pitch-perfect Improvement in Studying Influential Cysteine Thiols

In all organisms, reduction-oxidation-or "redox"-regulation is essential for many biological processes, including metabolism, gene expression, and environmental and stress response. Using a commercially available resin, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory developed an innovative, efficient method for enriching and quantitatively analyzing several post-translational modifications of cysteine residues. These modifications play a significant role in redox switches for regulating protein functions and protein-protein interactions.



microscopy images of microbes

Cyanobacterial Consortia Shed New Light on Phototrophic Biofilm Assembly

As part of their ongoing studies of the complex world of microbial communities, scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory recently isolated two bacterial consortia from a microbial mat in Hot Lake, located in north-central Washington State. They characterized each consortia’s membership and metabolic function to identify the interactions thought to recruit and maintain genetic and functional diversity in the consortia over time. The results shed light on the principles that govern microbial communities, principles needed for scientists to move closer to the goal of being able to predict, engineer, and manipulate microbial communities of importance to global carbon and energy cycling.



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