Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies, is the author of a paper “Exploring Allosteric Activation of LigAB from Sphingobium sp. strain SYK-6 through Kinetics, Mutagenesis and Computational Studies,” published in Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Vol, 567, pages 35-45, February 2015.
Co-authors include graduate students Kevin Barry and Joy Cote; Erin Cohn ’15, Abraham Ngu ’13 and former graduate student Jason Gerbino.
Development of renewable alternatives for petroleum derived fuels and chemicals is of increasing importance because of limits on the amount of fossil fuels that are available on the planet. In an effort to improve the utilization of lingo-cellulosic biomass sources (which includes switchgrasses, trees and other terrestrial plants) for the production of these chemicals, Taylor and her students have been working to enhance the understanding of how Lignin is broken down in nature (by environmental fungi and bacteria). As part of this work, they study an enzyme called LigAB from Sphingobium sp. strain SYK-6.
In a recent study, Taylor’s group showed that this enzyme works faster in the presence of vanillin, a molecule that is produced in large quantities as Lignin is depolymerized (which also is the primary ingredient in vanilla extract).
“The activation of LigAB is exciting because the enzymes that break down vanillin show that an organism can more efficiently metabolize all of the compounds — or get energy from the abundant molecule more quickly. This is the first time that an enzyme like LigAB has been shown to be responsive to other metabolically linked molecules, and it suggests that the flux of compounds through this pathway may be more complicated and interesting that initially predicted,” Taylor said.
Now, the group is interested in figuring out exactly how this activation works and also if there are any relatives of LigAB that exhibit similar behavior.
Two faculty members and two graduate students co-authored a paper published in the July 18 edition of the academic journal, Biochemistry.
Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of environmental studies; Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; chemistry graduate student Daniel Czyzyk; and molecular biology and biochemistry graduate student Shreya Sawant wrote the paper, “Escherichia coli Heptosyltransferase I: Investigation of Protein Dynamics of a GT-B Structural Enzyme.”
It appears online here.
Biochemistry is a publication of the American Chemical Society.
Fred Cohan, chair and professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, is the co-author of “Species,” published in the Encyclopedia of Genetics, Amsterdam, Elsevier, 2013; “Accuracy and efficiency of algorithms for demarcating bacterial ecotypes from DNA sequence data,” published in BMC Genomics, 2013; and “Speedy speciation in a bacterial microcosm: New species can arise as frequently as adaptations within a species,” published in the ISME Journal’s Advance Online Publication, 2013.
Johan “Joop” Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, professor of environmental studies, was elected as president of the Board of Trustees of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment (CFE).
The CFE is an organization of environmental advocacy, habitat restoration and outreach with about 20 staff members. Its mission is to protect and improve the land, air and water of Connecticut and Long Island Sound by using legal and scientific expertise and by bringing people together to achieve results that benefit the environment for current and future generations.
Johan “Joop” Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, professor of environmental studies, received a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation in January. He will use the funds to build a new X-Ray Fluorescence lab in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department.
The lab will be used for analyzing rocks, soils and waters.
Laura Stark, assistant professor of sociology, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of environmental studies, received a grant worth $6,900 from the American Sociological Association for her study titled “How do research subjects affect biomedical studies?” The grant was awarded Oct. 21.
Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of earth and environmental sciences, professor of biology and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, highlights the new Environmental Studies Linked Major and ENVS certificate program Sept. 11 in Usdan University Center.
From his home in Hawaii, Evan Weber ’13 can walk a couple hundred yards and be standing in the Pacific Ocean. Or, he can walk a couple hundred yards and be on the Ka’iwa Ridge, climbing through forests.
As a result of his fortunate placement, Weber grew up with a deep connection to the natural world and developed a sense of personal duty to preserve and uphold the “multifaceted wonder that is our home, Earth,” he says.
At Wesleyan, Weber plans to expand his appreciation and knowledge for the planet by double majoring in the new Environmental Studies (ENVS) Linked Major. The new area of study is more than an expansion of the Environmental Studies Certificate Program.
“My interest in environmental studies has to do with taking my spiritual, ethical and conservational ideas about nature and helping to disperse these ideas into the semi-functional globalized, industrialized, materialistic and political society that we are all members of,” Weber explains. “When one has the opportunity to know nature as place of solitude, a place for reflection, a thing
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