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Three Gas Utilities Fined

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has announced they are seeking a total of 180-thousand dollars in proposed penalties from Merrillville-based Northern Indiana Public Service Company and two other major gas utilities in the state, Citizens Gas and Vectren, for pipeline safety violations. The I-U-R-C says the companies failed to follow procedures and keep accurate maps and records of underground facilities, resulting in mislocating or not locating pipelines in accordance with the state's “Call Before You Dig” laws. IURC Chairman Jim Atterholt says a deadly gas pipeline explosion three years ago in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno, California, was a “tragic wake up call”.

NIPSCO issued a statement saying, "Public safety and the safety of our employees is a top priority, and we take that responsibility seriously.

"NIPSCO, along with every utility in the country, has an obligation to its customers to continually operate and maintain a safe energy infrastructure.

"NIPSCO has upgraded its systems and internal procedures to improve performance in responding to locate requests received throughout the year, and will continue to investigate and implement further measures to reduce pipeline damages.

"The additional action required by the Commission recognized the corrective steps already identified by NIPSCO," the company said.
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The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has announced they are seeking a total of 180-thousand dollars in proposed penalties from Merrillville-based Northern Indiana Public Service Company and two other major gas utilities in the state, Citizens Gas and Vectren, for pipeline safety violations. The I-U-R-C says the companies failed to follow procedures and keep accurate maps and records of underground facilities, resulting in mislocating or not locating pipelines in accordance with the state's “Call Before You Dig” laws. IURC Chairman Jim Atterholt says a deadly gas pipeline explosion three years ago in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno, California, was a “tragic wake up call”.

NIPSCO issued a statement saying, "Public safety and the safety of our employees is a top priority, and we take that responsibility seriously.

"NIPSCO, along with every utility in the country, has an obligation to its customers to continually operate and maintain a safe energy infrastructure.

"NIPSCO has upgraded its systems and internal procedures to improve performance in responding to locate requests received throughout the year, and will continue to investigate and implement further measures to reduce pipeline damages.

"The additional action required by the Commission recognized the corrective steps already identified by NIPSCO," the company said.
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Fire Training Provided to Inmates

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Eleven inmates at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City are being certified as firefighters. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security collaborated with the Indiana Department of Correction to provide the training this week, which included classroom and hands-on lessons in topics like fire behavior and ventilation. The Indiana State Prison had earlier established an offender fire department, but this is the first time certified fire training was conducted inside the facility. Upon graduating, the inmates will be certified to fight interior fires.    William K. Wilson, Superintendent of the Indiana State Prison stated, “This certification will benefit them when they return to their communities and will allow them to give back to the community”.
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[Photos/Indiana Department of Correction]
About the Indiana State Prison:
This Indiana State Prison (ISP) was built in 1860, and is the oldest correctional facility in operation for the Department. ISP is located on 102 acres of land on Michigan City’s west side. The physical plant consists of 51 buildings, which include 13 offender-housing units, steam plant, garage, warehouse, industries buildings, and five staff housing units. The main walled compound surrounds 24 acres of land. Located on the same grounds, outside the wall is the unit dedicated to house the medium-minimum security offenders....
 

Multiple Sobriety Checkpoints Planned

Multiple sobriety checkpoints will occur in the Region this weekend. The Lowell District of the Indiana State Police will conduct a sobriety checkpoint during the late evening hours in Porter County tonight [July 26, 2013]. Troopers say motorists who encounter a checkpoint will be required to produce a valid license and registration and can expect delays of two-to-three minutes if they're not impaired and there's no other reason to be detained. The Hammond Police Department says they will be conducting a sobriety checkpoint this weekend as part of the Lake County Drunk Driving Task Force with funding provided by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. And, the Lake County Traffic Safety Partnership has announced they're conducting a sobriety checkpoint in Hobart sometime this weekend.
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NWI RDA Considers EC Request

rda WinCE
The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority Board of Directors is considering a 39-million dollar funding application from the City of East Chicago. It would go toward a project to create a public-private partnership for spur economic development in the North Harbor area.
The board this week also approved a request for Deal Closing Funds from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, currently in negotiations with a company considering Northwest Indiana. Due to the sensitive nature of the talks, no further details were made available. The board says no RDA funds will be used unless a deal is finalized.
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Services for Former State Sen William Costas

william costas
Visitation is scheduled today (Fri Jul 26 2013) and funeral services tomorrow (Saturday) for former northwest Indiana state lawmaker and Region grocery store owner William Costas of Valparaiso. William Costas passed away at his home Tuesday at the age of 84. Costas, who was born in Detroit, founded Wilco Foods in Miller in 1962, then owned and operated Costas Foods from 1972 to 1998. Costas served two terms in the Indiana State Senate from 1980 to 1988. Costas is the father of Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas.
Visitation is Friday, July 26, 2013 from 2:00-8:00 p.m. at Liberty Bible Church, 824 N. Calumet Avenue in Chesterton.   The funeral service will begin Saturday, July 27, 2013 at 3:00 p.m. at the church with Rev. Robert Nienhuis officiating. Burial will be at Angelcrest Cemetery in Valparaiso.
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Gary Youth to Clean Up Graffiti

In less than a month, Gary's Youth Services Bureau hopes to mobilize one-hundred youth to take the first step in Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's challenge to young people in Gary to remove all the city’s graffiti. The bureau's director Patrick Barry is recruiting participants now, to remove and paint over graffiti in the first targeted area: along Broadway, from 6th to 21st Avenues. For info on the August 7th event, contact the Gary Youth Services Bureau.
City officials say this service learning activity will be the official kick-off of the Gary Youth Services Bureau’s “TEAM S.T.E.E.L.” (Service, Training, Engagement and Experiential Learning). This group is open to young people middle school to college age and will meet monthly to participate in training and experience based service learning activities. Youth who participate on this team will learn about relevant issues in the city, have a direct impact on addressing those issues, develop a sense of community pride and feel more equipped, empowered and engaged in helping to build a better Gary for themselves, their families and the future.
To register youth to participate visit the Gary Youth Services Bureau located at 839 Broadway, Suite S202 between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:00 pm. For more information contact the Youth Service Bureau at (219) 881-5270.
Additionally, city officials announced a Youth for Change Rally this Saturday, July 27:
In March of 2013, recent high school graduate David King launched a Youth Movement for Change which included a city-wide Youth March for Change. This marked the beginning of a youth-led movement to actualize young people’s vision to see a stronger, safer, more united Gary. King has since teamed up with the City of Gary’s Youth Services Bureau to expand the movement to include a citywide Youth Rally for Change, which will be held Saturday July 27, 2013, from 11a to 1p at Indiana University Northwest, Savannah Center, 3400 Broadway Gary, Indiana.
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A Recent Poll Shows Rural Areas Feel Ignored

rural america
INDIANAPOLIS - Rural Americans believe the federal government is ignoring their communities' needs, according to a new poll commissioned by the Center for Rural Affairs. Rural Affairs executive director Chuck Hassebrook said rural communities want and need economic help from the government.


 "They believe strongly that their communities are worth fighting for, and their way of life is worth fighting for, but that Washington's not paying attention," he declared. "And in all honesty, you can see it in the current Farm Bill debate."
 Nearly 9 in 10 polled believed the rural and small-town life is worth fighting for.   Hassebrook said the poll makes an important statement about the values of rural America.  
 "We surveyed 800 people across close to 20 states," he said. "It's a good-sized sample and important findings that inform the entire nation about what rural people have to say about what's important for their communities."


 Other findings from the poll show that three-fourths agree that too much of federal farm subsidies go to the largest farms, hurting smaller family farms. Three-fourths support tax credits and investment in new transmission lines for development of wind, solar and other renewable electric generation in rural areas. Eight in ten support grants and loans to revitalize small towns through upgrades to water and sewer systems and investments in roads and bridges.


 After failing to pass a new Farm Bill last year, when the old one expired, the U.S. Senate and House have recently passed very different versions of a new measure.

(article and graphic provided by, Leigh DeNoon/Indiana News Service)


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Grant Opportunity to Help Youth-Serving Organizations

IYI logo
INDIANAPOLIS – At least twelve organizations across Indiana will have the opportunity to serve more children, youth or families or improve their effectiveness through a grant program offered by the Indiana Youth Institute (IYI).
The Capacity Building Coaching grant will give nonprofits serving children, youth or families an opportunity to overcome challenges they face in running their agencies. The grant matches consultants with agency staff and board members to develop strategies and implement best practices so the organizations can best deliver their services.
IYI will award 12 grants, but because collaborative applications between two agencies are encouraged, more than 12 agencies could benefit. Applications must be submitted via e-mail to IYI by Aug. 26.
Nonprofit community and faith-based organizations serving children, youth or families from any Indiana county are eligible. Geographic diversity of the 12 winning applications will be taken into account when the grants are awarded. The grants will be awarded this September and the grant cycle will run through next June. The winning organizations will receive:
·         Up to 150 hours of professional consulting from IYI to provide strategic planning, board development, evaluation planning, fund development, marketing, executive mentoring, technology or other technical assistance that would increase the effectiveness of the organization.
·         Registration for one to attend “Principles and Techniques of Fundraising,” a five-day overview course taught by The Fund Raising School at Indiana University in Indianapolis, all approved travel expenses paid.
·         Registration for two to attend IYI’s Because Kids Count Conference in Indianapolis, Dec. 3-4, 2013, all approved travel expenses paid.
Requests for proposal guidelines for the Capacity Building Coaching grant can be found on the IYI website at www.iyi.org. Organizations with additional questions may contact Carolyn Langan, IYI’s program manager for consulting, at 1-800-343-7060, ext. 2716 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
The Indiana Youth Institute promotes the healthy development of Indiana children and youth by serving the people, institutions and communities that impact their well-being.
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Majority Favor Obama's Climate Action Plan

NRDC
It's been a little over a month since President Obama announced that he's not waiting for Congress to do something about climate change and Americans seem to be glad he's doing it.   That's the result of the first poll of voters since the president unveiled his Climate Action Plan. 
The poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates and Chesapeake Beach Consulting for the Naturla Resources Defense Council, found strong bipartisan support with 61 percent if respondents approving of the plan--with a reported 68 percent from the Midwest. 
Howard Learner with the Environmental Law and Policy Center says he expects to support to grow even stronger, "as people see that cars and trucks are becoming more efficient, as people see some of the old coal plant dinosaurs either cleaning up or retiring, I think you're going to see a lot of members of the public saying this makes sense."    Even after being given the arguments for and against the plan, the voters supported it by a nearly two to one margin.  
 In addition to telling the voters that the plan will limit pollution from power plants as well as boost fuel efficiency in vehicles and energy efficiency in homes, the voters were told that the plan will invest more in wind and solar power generation. And they approved.   
 Learner said Illinois is one of many states that will benefit economically.   "You know, the Midwest and the Great Plains are the Saudi Arabia of wind power," he said. "Iowa is the number two state in the country in terms of installed wind power development, Illinois is number four, Minnesota is number six."   He said the Dakotas are producing more wind power as well.  Meanwhile according to the Defense Council's website: http://www.nrdc.org, Indiana was ranked in the Top 20 states but is the third-fastest growing state in wind energy capacity
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 Learner sees the president's Climate Action plan as an important kick starter for the clean-energy industry.   Even though the poll showed bipartisan support for most elements in the plan, Senate Republicans have introduced legislation to stop the EPA from regulating carbon emissions from power plants. 


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 Poll results and more information is at ELPC.org.


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East Chicago Man Found Not Guilty of Murder by Jury

Antonio Perkins
(Photo Courtesy of the Times)
A 23 year old East Chicago man was found not guilty of murder today  by a jury in the death of a 21 year old woman and not guilty of attempted murder of the woman's boyfriend. The Times reports Antonio Perkins was accused of following the couple, after an altercation at an East Chicago gas station in July of 2011, and firing at their vehicle, striking the woman in the head. According to the article, the defense contended the evidence in the case did not hold up, as cell phone records indicated the victim had already been hospitalized when Perkins was alleged to have been shooting at the vehicle.
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Coats Votes Against Senate Spending Bills

Senator Dan Coats
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) voted against the Senate Fiscal Year 2014 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill and Financial Services Appropriations bill in today’s full committee markup.
Although Coats supported a number of amendments to these bills, he remains opposed to all of the Senate Appropriations bills because collectively they violate current law under the Budget Control Act.
“While these bills include amendments I offered and many worthy initiatives, I could not support the final legislation because the collective spending levels among all Senate Appropriations bills will violate current law,” said Coats. “The Senate needs to abide by the laws it enacts and stop playing games to avoid hard fiscal decisions.”
During the Senate Appropriations Committee markup, Coats along with Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) successfully included an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2014 State and Foreign Operations spending bill that would impose steep cuts on U.S. aid to the Government of Afghanistan if exit fees on American property continue during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The amendment would reduce foreign aid to Afghanistan by five dollars for every one dollar in taxes, fines or levies imposed on U.S. property exiting Afghanistan.
“Over the last twelve years, thousands of brave Americans have given their lives heroically to break the Taliban’s stronghold on the Afghan people and provide Afghan troops with military training and support,” Coats said. “We will not stand aside and allow the Afghan government to exploit the United States after all of the lives and resources our country has sacrificed.”
The U.S. military is gradually reducing its presence in Afghanistan as more responsibility is passed along to the Afghan security forces. The Government of Afghanistan reportedly has fined the U.S. up to $1,000 per shipping container that does not have a corresponding invoice of its contents. Recently, the U.S. special investigator for Afghanistan informed Congress of nearly $1 billion in business taxes and penalties imposed by the Afghan government on contractors and warned of hundreds of millions of dollars in additional future costs if the exit fees remain.
Coats also backed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2014 Financial Services Appropriations bill to prevent funding for implementation of the individual mandate in the president’s health care law.
“The Affordable Care Act is proving to be anything but affordable,” said Coats. “I consistently hear from Hoosiers across Indiana about the negative impacts this law is having on family budgets and job creators. Rather than force an unwanted and unpopular law onto the people, let’s regroup, reset and deliver effective health care reform for all Americans.”
The amendment failed along party lines during the committee markup.
The Senate Fiscal Year 2014 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill and the Senate Fiscal Year 2014 Financial Services Appropriations bill cleared the committee and will now be placed on the Senate calendar for consideration at a later date.
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Providing Fire Training to Indiana State Prison Inmates

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(Photos Courtesy of the Indiana State Prison)
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A program to provide fire fighting training to inmates of the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City is scheduled to conclude tomorrow. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the Indiana Department of Corrections says the program, which began on Monday, provides entry-level knowledge for participants to meet performance requirements and perform basic tasks, in the classroom and through hands-on lessons in topics such as fire behavior, forcible entry and ventilation. Indiana State Prison Superintendent William Wilson says this is the first time that certified fire training has been conducted inside the facility, and upon graduating, the inmates will be certified to fight interior fires which benefits them when they return to their communities so they can give back.
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Pilot and Passenger Injured in Columbus, IN Plane Crash

Two people aboard a small home-built plane are receiving treatment for their injuries after it crashed into a home, which caught fire as a result, near the Columbus Municipal Airport in downstate Columbus, around 9:30 this morning. Authorities say the pilot, 81 year old Gerald Clayton, of Columbus, and his passenger, Dennis King, whose age and hometown have not been released, are in serious and fair condition respectively at last check in an Indianapolis hospital. Officials say a woman was in home when the crash occurred, but was not injured.
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Donnelly Questioned DOD and Navy Nominees

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Washington, D.C. –Today, Senator Joe Donnelly questioned nominees for General Counsel of the Department of Defense, Inspector General of the Department of Defense, and two Assistant Secretaries for the Navy about military suicide prevention, improving the Department’s investigation of sexual assault cases, and Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane’s model of joint basing with the Army, which reduces costs for taxpayers.
Watch Senator Donnelly’s questions here.
Senator Donnelly’s ">first bill as U.S. Senator was the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2013, which would establish a pilot program in each of the military services and reserve components to integrate annual mental health assessments into a servicemember’s Periodic Health Assessment and identify risk factors for mental illness so that servicemembers can access preventative care.  More recently, Donnelly successfully advocated for a study in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act that would assess the design and possible implementation of the pilot program in the Jacob Sexton Act.
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Pence Directs Flags Be Flown at Half-Staff on Saturday

Gov Mike Pence
Indiana Governor Mike Pence today announced that flags at state facilities across Indiana be flown at half-staff this Saturday, July 27th, in honor of Korean War Veterans Armistice Day. Governor Pence is also asking businesses and residents to lower their flags to half-staff as well.
President Bill Clinton proclaimed July 27 a national day of recognition in 1998 to commemorate the more than 37,000 U.S. service personnel who lost their lives during the 37 months of combat in Korea, from 1950 through 1953.
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Attempted Murder Conviction of Lake Station Man Upheld

The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed police testimony regarding a Lake Station man's confession during his trial in 2012 in a 3-0 decision. 38 year old Jason King had appealed his attempted murder conviction, stating questioning by officers should not have continued when he asked if he needed an attorney, which the appeals court determined was not actually exercising the right to demand an attorney be present. The court also determined the 45 year prison sentence King received for shooting Woodrow McGuire, of Gary, in the face in February of 2011, was justified, in light of his significant criminal history, and the disturbing motive of the crime, in which King shot McGuire, a total stranger because, “he was black” and due to the fact McGuire had asked King to stop leaning against him while at a South Haven bar.
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IL Governor Signs Bill for 3rd Airport

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn today signed a law that moves forward plans for a third major Chicago-area airport. The new law lets the Illinois Department of Transportation enter into a public-private partnership for the development, construction and operation of a south suburban airport in Will County and will allow the state to spend about 71-million dollars on land acquisition near Peotone. The state is still awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration on a master plan for the proposed airport.
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Teens Won't Face Adult Charges

Two teenagers arrested after police say an explosive device was found in a backpack at the La Porte County Fair earlier this month are not being charged as adults. La Porte County's prosecutor tells the Times says the crime did not qualify for an automatic waiver into adult court, and since the suspects don't have a criminal history the case wasn't eligible for juvenile court officials to request a waiver. Police allege one of the teens made the so-called 'sparkler bomb' and the other took it to the fairgrounds.  Police say the device could have caused serious harm, but tell the newspaper they do not believe the suspects intended to hurt anyone.
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Plane Crash in S Indiana

In downstate Columbus, two people were reportedly hurt after a small plane crashed into a house this morning just south of the airport in the south-central Indiana city, which is about forty-miles south of Indianapolis. Both of the injured were said to have been aboard the plane.
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Purdue Discovery May Help Prevent Kidney Stones

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The discovery of a gene's function in E. coli and other bacteria might lead to a probiotic to prevent the most common type of kidney stone, according to a Purdue University study.
Human cells can't metabolize oxalate, an acidic chemical found in nearly all plants we eat, so any oxalate we absorb from food must be excreted from the body. Calcium-oxalate urinary stones can form when oxalate reaches a high concentration in the kidneys. About 80 percent of kidney stones are composed of insoluble calcium oxalate.
T. Joseph Kappock, assistant professor of biochemistry, and his research team made the discovery during a study of genes in Acetobacter aceti, a harmless bacterium that is typically used to convert wine to vinegar. Acetobacter aceti, which normally lives on plant tissue, thrives in acidic conditions that easily kill most other bacteria, Kappock said.
The researchers were searching for other acids in addition to acetic acid, the acid present in vinegar, that the bacterium can metabolize.
"We were very excited when we realized E. coli has the same genetic setup as Acetobacter aceti," said Kappock, whose findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Kappock and doctoral students Elwood A. Mullins and Kelly L. Sullivan found that Acetobacter aceti and E. coli each contain an enzyme with a previously unknown function, called YfdE in E. coli.
DNA sequencing had identified related genes in each bacterium, but provided little insight about its function.
"When we look at a bacterial genome by DNA sequencing, we can't tell what many of the proteins in the organism do," Kappock said. "I compare it to knowing that a vehicle has an internal combustion engine. You don't know if it's in an Indy car or a diesel truck. DNA sequencing tells us we have an internal combustion engine in this organism, but we don't know what it's for or what it can do."
Many other bacteria have the same genes but don't seem to be capable of using them.
"A few bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract eat oxalate, and we think we know how those work," Kappock said. "But we don't know why so many others are killed by oxalate, even though they have genes that would seem to be able to protect them. Oxalate is a very hard nut to crack. It's a very stable molecule that is difficult to decompose. The enzymes that process it are pretty specialized and don't seem to connect to normal bacterial metabolic pathways in an obvious way."
The researchers determined which chemicals are processed by the YfdE enzyme, following a hunch that it would use oxalate. Their results connected oxalate degradation to the core of bacterial metabolism.
Assigning a function to YfdE may help identify beneficial bacteria that could serve as probiotic agents in the human gastrointestinal tract to reduce the risk of kidney stone formation. Kidney stones, which affect more than 5 percent of the U.S. population, can cause painful blockages of the urinary tract.
"If we understand what bacteria need to degrade oxalate, then we might have a better idea how to identify strains that can do that, and thereby suppress the uptake of dietary oxalate" he said. "There are probably bacteria out there that have engineered themselves to do this for us."
Genome-sequencing information will increase the speed of the search, Kappock said.
"Because we've figured out what the gene product does, we will be able to find it in any organism and can zero in on those that might be beneficial," he said.
The researchers used X-ray crystallography to pinpoint the most important regions of the YfdE enzyme.
Kappock said the information has other applications, as well. Scientists and engineers who are interested in mapping and reprogramming microbial metabolism now know what one more gene product does.
"Our one piece of the puzzle will help others understand other metabolic networks," he said.
Agricultural Research at Purdue, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy funded the research.
News Release/Purdue University
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