Advances in the molecular modeling and simulation of complex biologicalsystemsare enabling researchers to study how certain microbial systems mayplay animportant role in the remediation of contaminated soils. One target isPseudomonas aeruginosa, a common microbe in sediments and thesubsurface. This bacterium is also an important opportunistic pathogenthat can cause fatal infections in people with a weakened immunesystems.
T.P. Straatsma is leading a team of researchers modeling thelipopolysaccharide outer membrane of P. aeruginosa to learn how themembrane responds to its environment. This research is addressing thequestion of how this microbe adsorbs to mineral surfaces and what themechanism is for the uptake and reduction of heavy metals. This hassignifi cant implications for bioremediation applications ifthese metals are radioactive and are reduced to insoluble form toprevent further spreading of the contamination.
In another project, the team also is addressing the healthrelated issuesconcerning this microbe. Again focusing on the outer membrane,Straatsmaand his coworkers are studying the role of a range of proteins embeddedinthe membrane, as well as the mechanism of action of certain antibioticsthat are effective in treating P. aeruginosa infections that plaguecystic fi brosis patients, burn victims and patients with compromisedimmune systems.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researcher Tjerk Straatsma will be presenting his results at 2:10 p.m.,Monday, Aug. 29.
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