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Contact: Mary Beckman
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

X-ray microscopy seen as next wave in structural biology research

High resolution images of cells, viruses, macromolecules at AAAS meeting

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Snapshots of proteins in repose might someday be replaced by views of proteins caught in action, if researchers presenting at AAAS on Friday Feb. 17 have their way. Researchers will explore how X-ray imaging can surpass X-ray crystallography for gathering detailed structural and functional information, even going as far as CAT-scan-like tomography of cells at the nanometer scale.

X-ray crystallography has served structural biologists well -- researchers who painstakingly purify individual proteins, DNA or other molecules of interest, form them into crystals and bombard them with X-rays to learn what they look like, how they work and how they've evolved over time. But with more than 60,000 unique molecules crystallized, some researchers, such as PNNL technologist Louis Terminello, say the ones relatively easy-to-crystallize are out of the way and biologists need a new tool for structural biology. Terminello has assembled this symposium to explore X-ray imaging as that next powerful tool.

"X-ray imaging allows you to peer through a collection of cells and tissues and keep things as close to their natural state as possible," said Terminello. "Other methods require processes that perturb reality. With the advent of high spatially resolved X-ray technology, we are just on the edge of X-ray microscopy that can show us the architecture inside cells." Terminello hopes the X-ray microscope will transform structural biology the way van Leeuwenhoek's microscope created the field of biology centuries ago.


REFERENCE: "Understanding Cellular Machinery Through X-Ray Imaging," Feb. 17, 10-11:30 a.m., Room 208-209, West Building, Vancouver Convention Center.

Media contact: Mary Beckman, mary.beckman@pnnl.gov, cell phone at conference: 208-520-1415.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory where interdisciplinary teams advance science and technology and deliver solutions to America's most intractable problems in energy, the environment and national security. PNNL employs 4,800 staff, has an annual budget of nearly $1.1 billion, and has been managed by Ohio-based Battelle since the lab's inception in 1965. Follow PNNL on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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