U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Office of Science Research Yields Understanding of Key Function of Uranium-Reducing Microbe
Published: May 26, 2008
Posted: June 06, 2008

Biophysical research has provided an important clue about how bacteria move within radionuclide-contaminated sites, where they can reduce and immobilize these contaminants. Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory determined the three-dimensional structure of sensory domains of two proteins involved in movement of the bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens. These domains are involved in chemotaxis, the means by which bacteria sense where to move to find nutrients or to avoid harmful chemicals. Binding of a stimulant molecule to a sensory domain on the outside of the cell transmits a signal to the interior of the cell, initiating the expression of proteins that enable the cell to move in response to the external stimulation. The Geobacter family is of particular interest because it is a major component of the microbial community in many subsurface environments contaminated by uranium. The Office of Science is supporting research into how Geobacter affects fate and transport of uranium in order to understand how this contamination could be remediated. The information obtained about the structure of the signaling domains will help to understand not only how microbes sense and move toward locations with higher uranium concentrations, but more generally respond to a variety of chemical changes in their environment. The Argonne research was led by Dr. Marianne Schiffer of the Biosciences Division and made use of the Structural Biology Center's protein crystallography stations at the Advanced Photon Source. It was published in the April 11, 2008, issue of the Journal of Molecular Biology.

Contact: Roland F. Hirsch, SC-23.2, (301) 903-9009
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Subsurface Biogeochemical Research
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Structural Biology, Biomolecular Characterization and Imaging
  • Research Area: Structural Biology Infrastructure

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER
      (formerly SC-23.2 Medical Sciences Division, OBER)


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)