Welcome to BioCAT

BioCAT is able to run most experiments at this time. COVID-19 related projects will still be given priority on the beamline. Additionally, due to an Argonne-wide policy, users are allowed on site on with special permission from the APS, so most experiments are done in a mail-in fashion in collaboration with a beamline scientist. If you are interested in beam time please contact us.

Science Highlights

What Bacterial Pathogens Can Teach Us about Protein Folding

Protein folding is one of the fascinating unanswered questions in biology. How does an amino acid sequence that is unfolded when it leaves the ribosome manage to fold properly into a highly ordered, lightning-fast enzyme or sturdy structural protein? Why don’t all the proteins in the cell instead just stick to each other, aggregating into a big mess? A unique model system in bacteria may hold some of the answers to these questions. The system involves the study of what are termed autotransporter proteins. These proteins have a highly specialized protein folding process that attracted the attention of a team of researchers who have used this bacterial system as a model to determine what allows these unique proteins to maintain their disordered state in the periplasm. The work includes studies carried out at BioCAT. The authors believe their work will provide important information toward understanding basic questions of protein folding and tests long-held theories about how this remarkable biological process works.

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Relaxation at the Molecular Level

The molecular interactions between the proteins myosin and actin that generate force during muscle contraction are some of the most well-studied molecular interactions in biology. However, there are some congenital skeletal muscle disorders and types of heart failure where relaxation of the muscle, rather than the force generation part of the cycle, appears to be the problem, and there are currently no available treatments that affect relaxation specifically. Recent work conducted at BioCAT used a unique transgenic mouse model, time-resolved small-angle x-ray diffraction, and molecular dynamics simulations to discover more about how myosin and actin interact during skeletal muscle relaxation. This research may help identify new treatments for neuromuscular disorders associated with impaired muscle relaxation kinetics.

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Understanding the Physiology of the Human Heart through the Study of Tarantula Muscles

A research team has found an unlikely source of inspiration for understanding how the human heart works and how we might design better drugs for conditions like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: tarantulas. The source of nightmares for arachnophobes and the household pets for arachnophiles are inspiring researchers to take new approaches to understanding diseases that alter how heart muscle cells contract and relax. But, before getting to the human heart, there is more to learn about the physiology of tarantula muscles. The researchers set out to understand how contractions in tarantula muscle cells are activated and why are muscle twitches that follow a sustained muscle contraction (post-tetanic) more forceful than those that don’t (pre-tetanic). Their results provide evidence that phosphorylation, the chemical addition of a phosphoryl group (PO3-) to an organic molecule, plays a key role in muscle activation and post-tetanic potentiation (PTP) in tarantula muscles.

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BioCAT commissions new EIGER2 XE 9M detector

BioCAT has received and commissioned our new Dectris EIGER2 XE 9M x-ray detector. This state-of-the-art detector will provide significant enhancements for both the muscle diffraction and SAXS programs at BioCAT and has already been used in multiple experiments since we commissioned it less than a month ago.

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BioCAT awarded new 5 year $8.6 million P30 grant

A team of researchers led by Prof. Thomas Irving (Illinois Institute of Technology) has received a $8.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue to operate the Biophysics Collaborative Access Team (BioCAT) facility at the Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory for the next 5 years.

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SAXS studies of RNA elements from the SARS-CoV-2 virus at BioCAT

As part of the global effort to study the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic, BioCAT is carrying out SEC-MALS-SAXS studies of RNA elements from the virus.

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