BER Highlights

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January 15, 2021
At left, microscopy image of a sediment sample containing methanotrophic archaea (pink) and sulfate-reducing bacteria (green). At right, mass spectrometry image showing levels of nitrogen incorporation by the different types of microorganism.
Symbionts of Methane Eating Microbes Fix Nitrogen
Microbial populations trade places to satisfy their nitrogen nutritional needs.
December 10, 2020
A conceptual drawing of ARM instruments and high-resolution model simulations at the Southern Great Plains Site.
Bridging the Model-Data Divide for Elusive Clouds
To help researchers examine important cloud processes, a DOE user facility activity combines high-resolution simulations with real-world observations.
November 19, 2020
The cell-free prototyping framework can down-select enzymatic pathway candidates to accelerate synthetic biological design in cells.
Cell-Free Technology Accelerates Industrial Biotechnology
New in vitro platform prototypes and rapidly optimizes synthetic enzymes for cellular design.
October 15, 2020
A new study of permafrost thawing in Svalbard, Norway, suggests substantial, sustained release of carbon dioxide when these soils decompose.
Young Permafrost Provides New Insights on Climate Change
New approaches shed light on arctic soil microbes and their potential to release greenhouse gases when permafrost thaws.
October 15, 2020
Leaves of the Arabidopsis plant showing the activity of the ANGUSTIFOLIA (AN) plant gene in response to the pathogen, P. syringae. The coloration indicates the severity of the disease.
Optimizing Plant Defense against Pathogens
Elucidating the plant’s ability to tweak its defense response to specific pathogens.
August 19, 2020
Several microbial community traits influence the fate of carbon in soil.
The Traits of Microbes Matter in Microbial Carbon Cycling and Storage
Research identifies microbiome traits that might be harnessed to improve global carbon models and or help increase carbon storage in soil.
August 4, 2020
A new root blotting technique captures a biochemical imprint of plant roots growing in flat slabs. Scientists examine the imprints with fluorescent indicators to visualize the distribution and activity of phosphate-mobilizing enzymes around the roots.
Digging into the Roots of Phosphorus Availability
New root blotting technique visualizes relationship between root growth, microbial activity, and soil nutrients.
July 23, 2020
Scanning electron micrograph images of wild and laboratory-evolved Y. lipolytica grown in a high concentration of ionic liquid. The evolved strain’s outer membrane displays much less disruption.
Stronger Membranes Help Yeast Tolerate Bioenergy Production Chemicals
Incorporating sterols in the outer membrane of Yarrowia lipolytica makes it significantly more tolerant of ionic liquids.
July 17, 2020
The new Serial Enrichment for Efficient Recombineering (SEER) technique allows biologists to apply recombineering-based techniques to many different species of bacteria (above, Shewanella putrefaciens bacteria).
New Technique Helps Solve a Long-Standing Obstacle for Microbial Genetic Engineering
SEER, a new method to rapidly search for proteins involved in rearranging DNA molecules, increases genome editing efficiency.
July 15, 2020
Microbial communities in Yellowstone National Park (left) and Olympic National Park (right).
Cooperative Microorganisms Get Competitive
Environmental factors can change interactions among microorganism communities.
June 5, 2020
Graphical representation of the determination of the cell wall ester content (O-acetyl ester/methyl ester) of leaves through observations of the atmospheric emission signature (acetic acid/methanol).
Breathing New Life into an Old Question: What Plants’ Emissions Tell Us about their Cell Walls
Detecting gaseous methanol and acetic acid released from plants sheds light on plant cell wall composition changes throughout leaf development.
May 7, 2020
The circles represent different groups of RNA viruses. The analysis is based on the sequence of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase transcripts found in California annual grassland soil. Known viruses are in pink and newly discovered viruses are in purple.
Soil Viruses: A Rich Reservoir of Diversity
Soils contain a large diversity of unknown RNA viruses that infect fungi and possibly plants and animals.
March 18, 2020
The MAGIC approach synthesizes DNA sequences for CRISPR-based gene activation (in orange), silencing (in blue), and elimination (in pink), then uses those sequences on yeasts to identify the genes required in different growth conditions.
A MAGIC Approach to Understanding the Genetic Basis of Complex Biological Functions
Comprehensive genome-wide search enables discovery of multi-gene determinants of traits in yeast.
January 30, 2020
This research used the presence / absence of particular proteins in each viral genome as input for a gene sharing network analysis. This approach helps classify the vast unknown majority of viruses discovered in each new study of nature.
A Viral Gold Rush
Scientists develop a new tool to find viruses in complex genomic data sets.
January 30, 2020
A designed coiled-coil heterodimer, with halves colored green and purple. A DNA double-helix (gold), for which particular sequences have the same property of forming specific pairs, is superimposed to show scale.
Breaking Through Computational Barriers to Create Designer Proteins
Using advanced computing, scientists designed protein pairs that perfectly complement each other.
December 20, 2019
Soil samples were taken at this field site in Prosser, WA. All soil samples were collected in three field replicates within a 0-to 20-cm depth from the ground. For each of the three field blocks, researchers collected three homogeneous replicates.
Simplifying Microbial Consortia Opens a Path to Understanding Soil Community Ecology
Representative communities of reduced complexity provide new experimental context for investigating how soil microbial communities function.
December 20, 2019
A new microbial network inference method reliably predicts interactions that depend on neighboring organisms.
Predicting How Microbial Neighbors Influence Each Other
A new computational method reliably predicts interactions that depend on neighboring organisms in an environment.
December 20, 2019
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Kansas State University found that soil drying significantly affected the structure and function of soil microbial communities.
Droughts Spell Changes for Soil Microbes
Researchers found that soil drying altered metabolic pathways within soil microbial communities.
October 9, 2019
Poplar cuttings inoculated with M. elongata strain PM193 (far right) grow larger in 30 percent forest soil / 70 percent sand than without PM193 (middle). On the left are controls grown in sterile sand. (Chih-Ming Hsu).
Fungus Fuels Tree Growth
Researchers start pinning down how a fungal symbiont spurs growth of poplar, a potential biofuel feedstock.
October 9, 2019
Model of the combination of factors that increase microbial diversity. Green arrows indicate higher diversity and red arrows indicate lower diversity with arrow thickness representing the strength of the effect.
Cultivating an Understanding of Microbial Diversity
Plant diversity, soil structure, and seasonality all influence microbial diversity in soil.
October 9, 2019
A research team from UC Berkeley found that hexokinase could act as a switch between photosynthesis and accumulation of bioproducts including lipids and antioxidants in algae.
Discovering an Internal Metabolic Switch in Algae
Discovering hexokinase as an algal regulator of lipids and high-value antioxidants will enable sustainable sources of biofuels and bioproducts.
September 18, 2019
Specialization for inorganic nitrogen metabolism. The outer ring shows a substantial fraction of incomplete pathways were found in genomes from each phylum. For most phyla, the average number of pathways per genome was about 1.9.
Microbes are Metabolic Specialists
Microbial Communities Matter in How Ecosystems Retain or Lose Nitrogen
September 10, 2019
The position of a charged monomer (blue dots) along a polymer chain impacts the final structures (structures 1, 3, and 5 from the sequence library) following assembly into micelles (bottom).
Location, Location, Location… How charge placement can control a self-assembled structure.
Location, Location, Location… How charge placement can control a self-assembled structure.
September 10, 2019
Electron microscopy of crack injection. Corrosion creates a nanoporous layer in the material (left) that propagates almost twice as far into the grain boundary as it does away from the boundary. The right image shows an injected crack.
Cracking in Harsh Environments Needs Stress and Corrosion, But Not at the Same Time
Redefining the mechanisms of stress corrosion cracking for materials in energy generation and industrial systems.
September 10, 2019
Contrary to previous theories, fungal spores-rather than sea salt-contribute the most to atmospheric sodium salt particles over the pristine Amazon basin, according to recent findings from an international team of scientists.
Where Does Salt in the Amazon Air Come From?
For the first time, an international team of scientists has discovered the true origin of sodium salt in pristine Amazon air.