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SSRL Headlines Vol. 11, No. 4  October, 2010


Contents of this Issue:

  1. Science Highlight — Crystal Structure of NorM, a MATE Transmembrane Transporter
  2. Science Highlight — An Artificial Skin Sensitive Enough to be Bothered by a Fly
  3. From the Director of SSRL: Ready for the Next User Run
  4. Structural Genomics Research at SSRL Begins Exciting New Chapter
  5. LCLS/SSRL Users' Meeting Covers Recent Successes and Future Plans
  6. Sam Webb Honored with Lytle Award
  7. SSRL Student Poster Award Winners
  8. Photon Science Users and Faculty Honored
  9. A Warm Welcome to Newly Elected SSRL and LCLS UEC Members
  10. SSRL Reaches Seismic Upgrade Milestone
  11. Upcoming Beam Time Request & Proposal Deadlines

1.  Science Highlight — Crystal Structure of NorM, a MATE Transmembrane Transporter
       (contact: G. Chang,

NorM Structure
Structure of the MATE transporter NorM from Vibrio cholarae.
MATE transporters are responsible for the exportation of various substrates and toxins from cells of bacteria, plants, and mammals using a proton or sodium gradient. Plants use them to transport metabolites, and they are important for tolerance to aluminum in soil, an important factor for crop yield. In bacteria and mammals, MATE transporters are important for multiple-drug resistance, which affects the efficacy of many medicines. Although these transporters play such important roles, much about how they work is not understood.

A team of researchers led by Prof. Geoffrey Chang at The Scripps Research Institute used SSRL Beam Line 11-1 to determine the x-ray crystal structure of the MATE transporter NorM from the bacterium Vibrio cholarae to 3.65 Angstrom resolution. They found that the 12 transmembrane helices form a novel structure with an outward-facing conformation. The general V-shape of the structure is reminiscent of other transporters from the same family, suggesting that this shape is important for transportation of the hydrophobic and amphipathic substrates. The authors also noticed cation-binding sites near areas of the transporter previously found to be critical for transport. They conclude that the structure captured in the crystals is in a stage of the transport cycle where it is ready to bind cations and not substrate.

This work was published in the October 21 issue of Nature.

To learn more about this research see the full scientific highlight

2.  Science Highlight — An Artificial Skin Sensitive Enough to be Bothered by a Fly
       (contacts: S. Mannsfeld,; Z. Bao,

Schematic process for the fabrication
of micro-structured PDMS films.
Schematic process for the fabrication of micro-structured PDMS films.
A desire to create machines that can explore their environments, like people do through the sensations of feeling and touch, has inspired researchers to develop artificial skin. An ideal electronic skin would be flexible and sensitive to even minor touches, such as the weight of an insect. Such a touch-sensitive material could be used for human prosthetics, sensory input devices for robotics, and applications where the biologic and electronic communicate.

A team of researchers led by Prof. Zhenan Bao of Stanford University and Stefan Mannsfeld of SSRL uses a thin sheet of rubber between very thin electrodes to make flexible pressure sensors that can be paper-thin. To make the rubber sheet more spongy and pressure-sensitive, millions of little structures were molded into it. As the rubber film deforms on exertion of pressure, the electrodes change proximity resulting in a change of charge that can register as "feeling." The researchers found their material to be sensitive enough to detect a fly and fast enough to provide fluid reaction times when perceived by people.

This research was published in the October issue of Nature Materials.

To learn more about this research see the full scientific highlight

3.   From the Director of SSRL: Ready for the Next User Run
Chi-Chang Kao
Chi-Chang Kao giving a presentation at the Users' Meeting (photo by Nik Stojanovic)
At the end of July, Piero Pianetta wrote in SLAC Today a column describing the successes of the 2010 user run at SSRL. The joint LCLS and SSRL Users' Conference that just concluded confirmed the high level of satisfaction-and expectations-of the user communities. With the SPEAR3 storage ring exceeding its original design specifications, SSRL is extremely competitive among the best synchrotron sources in the world, and we at SSRL are now poised to explore its full potential. First, on the operation side, we are taking another step toward the goal of 500 mA beam current with frequent fill injection, and we will be starting the 2011 run in November at 350 mA, compared to 200 mA last year. As we gain experience at 350 mA, we will increase the current during test runs to ensure that the resulting data quality remains high before putting even higher current modes into user operations. We put a high priority on making sure that users will operate effectively at the higher currents.

Second, users will benefit from an additional station and new instruments in 2011. We will be commissioning one more station to bring the facility to a total of 27 experimental stations (nine bend, 18 insertion device). The new station is Beam Line 14-3 and will cover the intermediate energy range from approximately two to five kilo-electron volts. This will allow us to cover the important x-ray absorption K-edges from phosphorous to titanium. We have also emphasized improving the in-hutch instrumentation including a state-of-the-art, 100-element germanium detector for Beam Line 11-2, replacing the diffractometer on Beam Line 7-2 with one that has better capabilities. In addition, the Recovery-Act-funded advanced spectroscopy instrument that will be commissioned this year will address a wide range of scientific problems. Other developments are planned to increase micro-focus imaging capabilities and, through a Laboratory Directed Research and Development project in collaboration with PULSE, we are exploring the use of SPEAR3 for picosecond pump-probe research. This provides important, complementary information to the femtosecond pump-probe research at LCLS.

Third, on the biology side, the SSRL Structural Molecular Biology program, or SMB, continues to provide state-of-the-art capabilities in macromolecular crystallography, biological small-angle scattering and x-ray absorption spectroscopy. This will continue into the future as a result of successful renewals in FY10 of funding for all areas of SMB, including the core SMB program supported by the Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and the National Institutes of Health National Center for Research Resources and National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and in structural genomics for the Joint Center for Structural Genomics-the NIH-NIGMS high-throughput center, for which the Structure Determination Core resides at SSRL.

Looking into the future, we will leverage the growth in the Photon Science Directorate to expand the materials and chemical sciences programs, and develop scientific programs complementary to LCLS. In particular, we will organize the wide range of tools available at SSRL to tackle high-impact scientific problems and problems with high societal impact, and facilitate the integration of basic and applied research. We will enhance the partnership with SLAC and Stanford faculties and synchrotron experts in the user community to better connect the core competence of SSRL with the most important problems in the user community, to better guide the investment in SSRL and to accelerate the speed of discovery. Finally, we will begin to build the scientific case for the best use of PEP-X.

—Chi-Chang Kao, SLAC Today, October 22, 2010

4.   Structural Genomics Research at SSRL Begins Exciting New Chapter
       SLAC Today article by Kelen Tuttle

Ashley Deacon loads samples of crystallized proteins into an automated sample mounting system. (Photo by Elizabeth Buchen)
Thanks to a $37.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, researchers at the Joint Center for Structural Genomics-including a 12-member team at SLAC's Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource-will continue to map the structures of proteins for the next five years.

The funding comes from the third phase of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences' Protein Structure Initiative, called PSI:Biology. Under the first two phases of the initiative, which began in 2000, JCSG contributed more than 1,000 new structures to the Protein Data Bank, a free, publicly available repository of all known protein structures.

Read more at:
see also:

5.   LCLS/SSRL Users' Meeting Covers Recent Successes and Future Plans
       SLAC Today article by Kelen Tuttle

LCLS/SSRL Users' Meeting
LCLS/SSRL Users' Meeting Session. (Photo by Nik Stojanovic)
Last week's LCLS/SSRL Users' Meeting packed more than 30 opening and plenary presentations and 60 breakout workshop talks into four and a half days, offering LCLS and SSRL users and staff the opportunity to learn about the latest plans, developments and user research at SLAC's lightsource facilities.

"It's really been an extraordinary year here at SLAC," SLAC Director Persis Drell said in her opening talk. "A year ago, the LCLS was just starting user-assisted commissioning, and we really were wondering how it was all going to go. It's gone brilliantly. In the past year we've also built the strongest possible team to lead SSRL into the future, while being mindful of the needs of its users."

The past year, Drell said, has seen more than 90 percent of scheduled beam time delivered to LCLS end stations, and in that time the machine has been "operating more reliably and with far more flexibility than we had any right to expect." Meanwhile, SSRL delivered more than 95 percent of scheduled beam time, serving more than 1400 users at 26 experimental end stations.

"We are very excited about the near- and long-term future of SLAC," Drell told attendees, "and we are thrilled to have you here to share it with us." Read more at:

6.   Sam Webb Honored with Lytle Award
       SLAC Today article by Kelen Tuttle

Lytle & Webb
Farrel Lytle and Sam Webb (Photo by Nik Stojanovic)
Congratulations to SSRL Staff Scientist Sam Webb, this year's recipient of the 2010 Farrel W. Lytle Award. Given annually since 1998, the award recognizes technical or scientific achievements in synchrotron radiation-based science as well as efforts to promote collaboration and efficiency at SSRL.

"I was completely-but pleasantly-shocked," Webb said after the announcement was made at the 2010 LCLS/SSRL Users' Meeting. "Being in the x-ray absorption business, we all use the Lytle detector. I've had the further pleasure of helping Farrel out with his data collection here at SSRL. But to win this award. all I can say is that I'm very happy and very, very humbled."

SSRL Users Organization Executive Committee Member Wayne Lukens, who presented the award, said that Webb received the honor for his exceptional skills and motivation, dedication to technical and software developments, remarkable commitment to the user community, positive attitude and generous personality. In all, Lukens said, Webb helps users to achieve the most satisfying and productive scientific experience at SSRL's micro-imaging spectroscopy beam lines.

"Sam's dedication to synchrotron science and SSRL users makes him unique and a great asset to SSRL," said Sarah Hayes, a researcher from the USGS and an SSRL user. "His scientific savvy, investment in user projects and technical expertise. foster efficient use of beam time and have brought many collaborations to SSRL. For me, Sam embodies everything I expect from SSRL: a commitment to scientific excellence, consistently working for technical improvements that enhance science, and a desire to go the extra mile to make sure users are collecting the best data in the most efficient way."

Congratulations, Sam!

poster session
(Photo by Nik Stojanovic)
7.   SSRL Student Poster Award Winners

Congratulations to Inna Vishik, Munzarin Qayyum, Michael Massey, Jared Schwede and Daniel Riley on their award-winning poster contributions to the graduate student poster competition held as part of our Annual Users' Meeting. Abstracts for their respective posters can be viewed at:

8.   Photon Science Users and Faculty Honored       

We are pleased to add our congratulations to SSRL, SIMES and LCLS users and faculty who have recently received awards for excellence and/or innovation in their endeavors.

J Stohr
American Physical Society 2011 Davisson-Germer Prize winner J. Stöhr. (Photo by Nik Stojanovic)

  • Dr. Vahe Bandarian (University of Arizona) - American Chemical Society Pfizer Award for research in Enzyme Chemistry.
  • Associate Professor Geoffrey Chang (The Scripps Research Institute) - NIH EUREKA Award.
  • SIMES Deputy Director and Applied Physics Professor Kathryn (Kam) Moler, (SLAC/Stanford) - Richtmyer award from the American Association of Physics Teachers.
  • SLAC Chief Scientist, SIMES Director and Professor in Applied Physics, Physics and Photon Science Z. X. Shen (SLAC/Stanford) - 2011 Oliver E. Buckley Prize in Condensed Matter Physics from the American Physical Society.
  • Associate Laboratory Director of the LCLS and Photon Science Professor Jo Stöhr (SLAC/Stanford) - 2011 Davisson-Germer Prize from the American Physical Society.
see also:

9.   A Warm Welcome to Newly Elected SSRL and LCLS UEC Members       

Newly elected members of the SSRL and LCLS Users' Organization Executive Committees were announced during our Annual Users' Meeting last week. Stefano Marchesini (LBNL) will serve as the Coherent X-ray Imaging representative on the LCLS UEC replacing Anton Barty (LLNL). For SSRL, Serena DeBeer (Cornell University) and Sarah Hayes (USGS) will serve as the Bio Spectroscopy/Bio SAXS and Environmental/Geoscience representatives replacing Robert Szilagyi (Montana State University) and Yuji Arai (Clemson University) respectively.

We extend a warm welcome to our incoming representatives and many thanks to outgoing UEC members. We appreciate their willingness to represent the interests of their respective user communities in this capacity.

(Photo by Lori Ann White)
10.   SSRL Reaches Seismic Upgrade Milestone
       SLAC Today Article by Lori Ann White

Structures at SSRL are bolstered against earthquakes, thanks to some hard work and funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The work completes the first of two phases in the Recovery-Act-funded seismic upgrades at SSRL. Phase I, the Booster to SPEAR Seismic Retrofit Project, was completed on schedule on October 5, during SSRL's scheduled annual shutdown. Read more at:

11.   Upcoming Beam Time Request & Proposal Deadlines
       (contact: C. Knotts,

X-ray/VUV Beam Time Requests for February through May 2011 beam time are due Wednesday, December 1. Please submit your requests via our user portal:

December 1 is also the next deadline for submitting new X-ray, VUV and Macromolecular Crystallography proposals. New proposals should be submitted through our user portal as well.


SSRL Headlines is published electronically monthly to inform SSRL users, sponsors and other interested people about happenings at SSRL. SSRL is a national synchrotron user facility operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences. Additional support for the structural biology program is provided by the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research, the NIH National Center for Research Resources and the NIH Institute for General Medical Sciences. Additional information about SSRL and its operation and schedules is available from the SSRL WWW site.


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Last Updated: 29 October 2010
Content Owner: L. Dunn
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