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PNNL to receive $10.6 M for protein studies

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July 23, 2002 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — The Department of Energy has announced that Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will receive $10.6 million over the next three years to develop next-generation tools to analyze the network of protein complexes within cells. The funding is part of a joint proposal led by DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Through DOE's new Genomes to Life program, ORNL and PNNL will develop novel technologies that examine live cells and isolate, identify and characterize groups of proteins, called protein complexes, within microbial cells. Through this research, scientists will learn how to take advantage of solutions that nature has already devised to help solve problems in energy production, environmental cleanup and carbon cycling.

"We need new tools and a new way of analyzing protein function from a global perspective called systems biology if we are to understand complex biological systems and put them to practical use," said Steve Wiley, PNNL program manager who will serve as a co-coordinator of the Center for Molecular and Cellular Systems with ORNL's Frank Larimer. "Current technologies won't meet the ambitious goals of Genomes to Life, so we'll create the techniques that will make it possible."

These techniques will be used to investigate protein complexes in two specific microbes: Shewanella oenidensis, known for its ability to transform metals and toxic materials into harmless forms; and Rhodopseudomonos palustris, which absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converts it into biomass.

PNNL brings to this research its large collection of mass spectrometers, which includes the most sensitive and rapid tools available for identifying proteins that exist in low abundance, and a unique system of generating "affinity tags" for quickly isolating protein complexes. In addition, PNNL will leverage several of its imaging devices, which can provide clues to a protein's potential function, and a computational infrastructure that facilitates collaborative research and information sharing. With the Genomes to Life funding, PNNL scientists will develop new technologies to automate the protein isolation process and further enhance their mass spectrometry methods.

"Together, Oak Ridge and PNNL have the most comprehensive collection of analytical tools within the DOE lab system that is necessary to better understand microbes on a systems level," according to Michelle Buchanan, director of ORNL's Chemical Sciences Division. "This collaboration will provide the technological infrastructure needed for post-genomic studies."

Many of the powerful technologies PNNL scientists will employ in this research are housed in the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE scientific user facility located at PNNL.

PNNL will receive nearly half of the project's allotted $6 million for fiscal year 2003. The total award for the ORNL-led proposal is $23.4 million over three years, which will be shared with four other institutions: Argonne National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Utah.

The Genomes to Life program awards announced by DOE total $103 million for research that will be conducted at six national laboratories, 16 universities and research hospitals, and four private research institutes.

Business inquiries on PNNL research and technologies should be directed to 1-888-375-PNNL or e-mail:

Tags: Energy, Fundamental Science, Biomass, Energy Production, Biology, Mass Spectrometry and Separations

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