In this issue...
  • BETCy scientists publish in Science on nitrogen reduction using light energy
  • BETCy researchers publish review on electron bifurcation
  • Dan Colman chosen for EFRC newsletter editorial board
  • Students share small-scale science at NanoDays
  • BETCy researchers present at seminars and conferences
The research described in this newsletter is supported as part of the 
Biological Electron Transfer and Catalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the 
U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science.
BETCy scientists publish in Science on nitrogen reduction using light energy

BETCy EFRC investigators recently published a paper in Science that outlines a way to make ammonia in the lab using nitrogenase enzyme but without the high-energy input of ATP that nitrogenase typically requires. Ammonia, a component of fertilizer, is produced industrially
by the energy-intensive Haber-Bosch process, a process that is estimated to consume approximately 1-2% of the world's annual energy budget.

I n the Science paper, BETCy scientists demonstrated that energy could be supplied to nitrogenase via light-activated cadmium sulfide nanorods. The activated nanorods in turn provided electrons to the MoFe nitrogenase enzyme to produce ammonia at a rate that is comparable to biological nitrogen fixation. This work shows the potential for producing ammonia fertilizer driven by solar energy.

"Light-driven dinitrogen reduction catalyzed by a CdS:nitrogenase MoFe protein biohybrid" was published in the April 22, 2016 issue of Science. The paper was co-authored by Katherine A. Brown, Derek F. Harris, Molly B. Wilker, Andrew Rasmussen, Nimesh Khadka, Hayden Hamby, Stephen Keable, Gordana Dukovic, John W. Peters, Lance C. Seefeldt and Paul W. King.

BETCy researchers publish review on electron bifurcation

Five BETCy EFRC investigators recently co-authored a review on electron bifurcation. The review explains how bifurcating systems conserve energy in microbial metabolism and briefly chronicles some of the early work that led to the first description of electron bifurcation. The paper touches on the role of bifurcating enzymes in balancing the electron flow associated with the pyridine nucleotide pools and regulating the balance of catabolism and anabolism in metabolism. It also includes a discussion of how the unique redox properties of flavin cofactors facilitate electron bifurcation. 

The authors provide a description of the hypothesized conformational gating  mechanism for the bifurcating flavoenzyme Nfn. Nfn has two subunits, A and B, and in the pro posed gating mechanism, electron flow through the AB complex is controlled via a reorientation of the two protein subunits relative to one another. It is hypothesized that the subunits under go a redox-state dependent conformational switch that confers the enzyme with the ability to direct the flow electrons down different paths of high and low reduction potential.

"Electron Bifurcation" was published in the April 2016 issue of  Current Opinion in Chemical Biology. The review was co-authored by John Peters, Anne-Frances Miller, Anne Jones, Paul King, and Michael Adams.
Dan Colman of Montana State University chosen for editorial board of EFRC newsletter
Dan Colman, a postdoctoral researcher in Eric Boyd's group at Montana State University, was recently chosen to serve on the editorial board of the EFRC electronic newsletter, Frontiers in Energy Research. Colman continues BETCy's tradition of nominating energetic young scientists to write for the newsletter.
When asked about how serving on the board fits into his work and career plans, Dr. Colman writes, "The dissemination of scientific results outside of peer-reviewed journal articles to other scientists and to the public, is arguably of extreme importance during a time when complex scientific issues like energy demands and climate change are of increasing interest. The mission of the EFRC newsletter is to highlight scientific achievements from EFRCs as well as relevant science topics that are of interest to the broader EFRC community."

"I  am particularly excited about serving on the EFRC newsletter editorial board because I think distilling scientific results into content that non-specialists can benefit from is an important part of the scientific process in today's cultural climate and is a necessary skill for future scientists," continued Colman. "Also, as an early career scientist, I am looking forward to the opportunity to interact and network with scientists from other EFRCs that conduct science outside of my previous areas of expertise. For these reasons, I believe the position will be an important career development opportunity that will be beneficial to me on multiple levels, and I very much look forward to being the BETCy representative on the editorial board."
Students participate in NanoDays outreach event

Students from the John Peters lab participated in Montana State University's annual NanoDays event, a celebration of small-scale science and engineering, held on Feb. 29, 2016.

The students ( left to right), Sarah Partovi, Melody Machovina, and Alex Alleman, made liquid nitrogen ice cream for 80 fifth graders from two local elementary schools, while sharing details about their research and academic careers. During the evening event, over 250 members of the community attended the NanoDays event. The students also wowed the audience by freezing banana slices and shattering the frozen fruit with a hammer.  Partovi and Alleman are graduate students in the Peters lab. Machovina is in Jen Dubois' laboratory in MSU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
BETCy researchers present at seminars and conferences

July - December 2015
Eric Boyd presented "New Insights into the Evolution of Biological Nitrogen Fixation" at the GRC Cell Biology of Metals, July 2015, West Dover, Vermont.
Anne-Frances Miller presented "One Man's Trash Is an Enzyme's Substrate: Mechanistic and Structural Features of a Promiscuous Enzyme" at the Gordon Research Conference on Enzymes, Coenzymes and Metabolic Pathways. July 12-17, 2015, Waterville Valley, NH.
Saroj Poudel (Boyd Group) presented "Identifying the structural determinants that influence the  directionality and function of [FeFe]-hydrogenase" at the GRC Cell Biology of Metals, July 2015, West Dover, Vermont.
Michael Adams presented an invited talk entitled "Engineering Thermophiles to Produce Liquid Fuels",at theThermophiles 2015 Conference, Aug. 29, 2015, Santiago, Chile.
John Peters presented at the Society for Industrial Microbiology Meeting in Philadelphia, PA, Aug. 4, 2015,
John Peters presented at the Thermophiles Conference in Santiago, Chile, Aug. 30 - Sept 4, 2015,
Lance Seefeldt presented "Insights into the Nitrogenase Mechanism" at the Molybdenum & Tungsten Enzymes Conference 2015. Sept. 6-10, 2015, Balatonf├╝red, Hungary.
Anne-Frances Miller presented "Flavins at the Foundation of Life" at the Midwest Enzyme Chemistry Conference. Sept. 12, 2015, Chicago, IL.
Anne-Frances Miller presented "How proteins control electrons: protons" at the Department of Chemistry, Mississippi State University, Sept. 25, 2015.
John Peters, Caroline Harwood, Lance Seefeldt, and members of the Seefeldt research group, Sudipta Shaw, Zhiyong Yang and Nimesh Khadka attended and made presentations at the 19th International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation. Asilomar, CA, Oct. 4-9, 2015.
January - June 2016
Anne-Frances Miller and members of her research group, Karl Hempel, Zachary Griffith, John Patrick Hoben, presented the poster "Producing Reactive Intermediates via Photodriven Electron Transfer" at Posters at the Capitol, Feb. 25, 2016. Frankfort, KY 
Anne Katherine Jones presented the talk "Biological and Bio-Inspired Electrocatalysis : Electrochemical Solution to Energy Challenges" at a University of California at Irvine Colloquium, March 2016.

David Jennings, from the Jones Research Group presented a seminar entitled "Electrocatalytic Activity of the Electron Bifurcating Enzyme NADH-dependent Reduced Ferredoxin:NADP+ Oxidoreductase (Nfn)" at the Spring ACS Conferences, San Diego, CA, March 2016.
Michael Adams presented a seminar entitled "Engineering Hyperthermophiles to Produce Liquid Fuels and Chemicals" at the University of Illinois Department of Microbiology, March 17, 2016.
Karl Hempel, Zachary Griffith, John Patrick Hoben, and Anne-Frances Miller presented a poster, "Producing Reactive Intermediates via Photodriven Electron Transfer," selected from 4000 applicants, at  NCUR 30 at the University of North Carolina Asheville , April 7-9 , 2016 Asheville, NC.
Karl Hempel, Zachary Griffith, John Patrick Hoben and Anne-Frances Miller presented a poster, "Producing Reactive Intermediates via Photodriven Electron Transfer," at the Southeast Enzyme Conference, April 16, Atlanta, GA.
Haijun Diessel Duan from the Miller Group presented "Cloning and Soluble Expression of Bifurcating Electron Transfer Flavoprotein FixAB from Diazotroph Rhodopseudomonas palustris"  at theSoutheast Enzyme Conference, Atlanta, GA. April 16, 2016.
John Hoben from the Miller Group presented "An Approach for Generating and Characterizing Semiquinone Intermediates Proposed to be Critical to Electron Transfer in Flavin Dependent Nitroreductase" at the Southeast Enzyme Conference, Atlanta, GA. April 16, 2016.