BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

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

BER Research Highlights

Neutron Crystallography Reveals How Carbonic Anhydrases (CAs) Work
Published: March 01, 2011
Posted: April 08, 2011

CAs are a family of enzymes that play an essential role in the metabolism of carbon dioxide by converting it into a carbonate ion and a proton. Because they are very stable and inexpensive, CAs could be used in significant large-scale applications such as carbon sequestration processes and biofuel production. However, little is known about the arrangement of the active site of CAs while they carry out their function, a gap that has impeded design of optimized CAs for these applications. Neutron crystallography experiments at the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center to determine the structure of human carbonic anhydrase II have revealed the orientation of amino acids around the zinc ion in the active site, as well as the unexpected presence of a water molecule bound to the metal ion. This structural information has enabled development of a mechanism to explain the proton transfer process and is being used to re-engineer the enzyme to be pH insensitive and thermally stable for carbon sequestration or biodiesel production.

Reference: Fisher, S. Z., et al. 2010. “Neutron Structure of Human Carbonic Anhydrase II: Implications for Proton Transfer,” Biochemistry 49, 415–21.

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: Biosystems Design
  • Research Area: Structural Biology, Biomolecular Characterization and Imaging
  • Research Area: Structural Biology Infrastructure

Division: SC-33.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


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

Recent Highlights

Mar 23, 2021
Molecular Connections from Plants to Fungi to Ants
Lipids transfer energy and serve as an inter-kingdom communication tool in leaf-cutter ants&rsqu [more...]

Mar 19, 2021
Microbes Use Ancient Metabolism to Cycle Phosphorus
Microbial cycling of phosphorus through reduction-oxidation reactions is older and more widespre [more...]

Feb 22, 2021
Warming Soil Means Stronger Microbe Networks
Soil warming leads to more complex, larger, and more connected networks of microbes in those soi [more...]

Jan 27, 2021
Labeling the Thale Cress Metabolites
New data pipeline identifies metabolites following heavy isotope labeling.

Analysis [more...]

Aug 31, 2020
Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco

  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rub [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)