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A. Summary

The W.R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national scientific user facility, initiated a grand challenge research effort in membrane biology. This effort was undertaken at DOE’s request and upon advice from an independent scientific steering committee in early 2003. The grand challenge effort is part of a DOE Mission Stretch Goal incentive to Battelle Memorial Institute for its operation of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), to be formally evaluated after completion of fiscal year 2007 activities.

The awarded project is directed at a systems level understanding of cyanobacterial membrane structure and processes, particularly as they affect and regulate signal transduction, carbon and nitrogen fixation and energy storage, hydrogen production, and metal ion homeostatis. The model cyanobacterium used in this study is a marine species known as Cyanothece sp ATCC 51142, and was chosen because it exhibits unique abilities to fix carbon via photosynthesis by day (light) and to additionally fix nitrogen by night (dark), using a robust circadian cycle that is temporally regulated by unique cellular biochemistry. The organism possesses a unique system of inner thylakoid membranes that house photosystem and other protein complexes, thus providing a special model system for studying membrane protein processes.

The research team is a multi-institutional group representing academia and private and government research institutions, with expertise in microbiology, biochemistry, proteomics and metabolomics, structural biology, imaging, and computational modeling and bioinformatics. The research team is headed by Professor Himadri Pakrasi of Washington University in St. Louis and Professor Louis Sherman at Purdue University. Dr. Pakrasi’s chief liaison and contact at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is Dr. David W. Koppenaal. Additional investigators represent St. Louis University, the Danforth Plant Sciences Center, and PNNL/EMSL.

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