The American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly press package (PressPac) offers information on reports selected from 36 major peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News.
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Scientists are reporting evidence that intact, double-stranded DNA has the “amazing” ability to recognize similarities in other DNA strands from a distance. And then like friends with similar interests, the bits of genetic material hangout or congregate together. The recognition — of similar sequences in DNA’s chemical subunits — occurs in a way once regarded as impossible, the researchers suggest in a study scheduled for the Jan. 31 issue of ACS’ Journal of Physical Chemistry B.
Geoff S. Baldwin, Sergey Leikin, John M. Seddon, and Alexei A. Kornyshev and colleagues say the homology recognition between sequences of several hundred nucleotides occurs without physical contact or presence of proteins, factors once regarded as essential for the phenomenon. This recognition may help increase the accuracy and efficiency of the homologous recombination of genes — a process responsible for DNA repair, evolution, and genetic diversity. The new findings thus may shed light on ways to avoid recombination errors, which underpin cancer, aging, and other health problems.
In the study, scientists observed the behavior of fluorescently tagged DNA strands placed in water that contained no proteins or other material that could interfere with the experiment. Strands with identical nucleotide sequences were about twice as likely to gather together as DNA strands with different sequences. “Amazingly, the forces responsible for the sequence recognition can reach across more than one nanometer of water separating the surfaces of the nearest neighbor DNA,” said the authors. — AD
Splash! Ooch! Yum! And so another unsuspecting insect victim of Nepenthes alata (N. alata), commonly known as the carnivorous pitcher plant, falls victim to the digestive fluids at the bottom of the plant's famous cup-shaped leaf. For almost a century, scientists have sought the full chemical recipe for the pitcher plant's fluid. Japanese scientists now report completely deciphering this complex cocktail of digestive and antibacterial enzymes. Their study is scheduled for the February issue of ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication.
Unlike other plants that absorb nutrients from the soil, carnivorous plants growing in nutrient-poor soils have special organs to capture insects, digest them and absorb the nitrogen and phosphorous their environment sorely lacks. The identity of all the myriad proteins involved in this evolutionary marvel — some of which could have beneficial applications in medicine and agriculture — has been a mystery until now.
Tatsuro Hamada and Naoya Hatano used cutting-edge proteomic analysis to identify all of the components. They isolated and sequenced the proteins, then compared each with existing proteins to find structural matches. Hamada and Hatano detected seven proteins that exist mainly in the pitcher fluid of N. alata — three of which can only be found in this species — including useful enzymes that may inhibit bacterial growth and rotting as the plant slowly digests its prey. — AD
Researchers report effectiveness of a powerful, environmentally-friendly catalyst in destruction of various estrogens that currently escape complete removal in our wastewater treatment plants. Their study is scheduled for the Feb. 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.
In the new study, Nancy Shappell and colleagues explain that endocrine disruptors, both natural hormones and hormone-like compounds, have been detected in the surface waters. Many of these endocrine disruptors have estrogenic activity. Ethinylestradiol, for instance, is an active ingredient in both the birth control pill and the newly-introduced “no period pill.” It is a major source of environmental estrogenic activity.
To address this problem, the researchers tested a new catalyst called Fe-TAML or Fe-B*. In the presence of hydrogen peroxide, the catalyst quickly and effectively destroyed various forms of estrogens typically found in post-treatment wastewater, removing 95 percent of the chemicals — including Ethinylestradiol — in 15 minutes. Estrogenic activity was also diminished to a similar extent. Further research will evaluate Fe-B*’s efficacy on actual wastewater, in addition to more extensive evaluation of byproduct toxicities. Usefulness in wastewater treatment could be doubly beneficial, as Fe-B* has been reported to destroy harmful bacterial spores. — MTS
Researchers in California report a key advance in efforts to use inkjet printing technology in the manufacture of a new generation of low cost, high-performance electronic circuits for flexible video displays and other products. Their study, which describes development of a new method for producing straighter, uniform circuits using inkjet-printing, is scheduled for the March 4 issue of ACS’ Langmuir, a bi-weekly publication.
In the report, Dan Soltman and Vivek Subramanian note that inkjet-printed circuits must be extremely smooth and straight. That difficult feat has been elusive because the drop-by-drop nature of inkjet-printing often leaves uneven printed features on surfaces, especially a circular pattern known as the “coffee ring” effect, they note.
The scientists describe a new way to optimize printing conditions to eliminate the coffee-ring effect and produce smooth, narrow lines with an even edge. The development demonstrates the feasibility of tuning and optimizing inkjet technology for microelectronic applications, they say. — MTS
Amid growing water shortages in parts of the United States, more communities are considering tapping their sewage treatment plants as a new source of drinking water. The conversion of wastewater into tap water could help meet increased demand for one of life’s most essential resources, according to an article scheduled for the Jan. 28 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’s weekly newsmagazine.
C&EN Associate Editor Jyllian Kemsley notes in the article that some communities have used recycled wastewater for decades to replenish their drinking water supplies and wastewater often finds agricultural use for irrigation. Droughts, environmental concerns, and population growth now are forcing water utilities to consider adapting or expanding the practice, Kemsley explains.
Earlier in January, for instance, California approved operation of the Advanced Water Purification Facility (AWPF), the largest water reclamation plant in the nation. It will yield 70 million gallons per day of drinkable water from sewage. That’s about 10 percent of the district’s daily water demand for its 2.3 million residents. Although AWPF’s purification process is complex, it produces clean, pure water that meets or exceeds all drinking water standards, the article notes.
Mark your calendars for one of the year’s largest and most important scientific events — the 235th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), which will be held April 6-10, 2008, in New Orleans, La.
With more than 160,000 members in the United States and other countries, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society. About 12,000 scientists and others are expected for the event, which will include more than 9,000 reports on new discoveries in chemistry. Those reports span science’s horizons from astronomy to zoology and include a special focus on health, energy, food, environment, and alternative fuels.
In addition to coverage of breaking science news, the meeting provides an opportunity for independent reporting on disaster recovery efforts in the region prior to the June 1 start of the 2008 hurricane season.
For media registration, please click here. Housing reservations are now open for those who plan to attend the meeting. The ACS Press Center will be located in Room 206 of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. It will include a media workroom with staff to assist in arranging interviews, press conferences, wireless Internet access, telephones, computers, photocopy and fax services, and refreshments.
For reporters planning to cover the meeting from their home bases, the ACS Office of Communications will provide an expanded suite of resources, including press releases, non-technical summaries of research presentations, and access to news briefings.
The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.