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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

June 11, 2004

An invitation to use new lab facilities

by Teddi Barron

New laboratories at Iowa State are taking biological researchers to the next level, well into the post-genomics sciences. New facilities devoted to meta-bolomics and proteomics extend the capability of an existing genomics laboratory. All three are managed by the Plant Sciences Institute and are available on a fee-for-service basis for campus and off-campus scientists.

The W.M. Keck Metabolomics Research Laboratory

0124 Molecular Biology Building
Ann Perera, laboratory manager
4-3019, (services, fees and billing info are on the Web page)


  • Agilent gas chromatography/mass spectrometer-EI
  • Agilent gas chromatography/mass spectrometer-CI
  • Beckman Coulter high performance liquid chromatography system
  • Beckman Coulter P/ACE
  • Agilent Technologies HPLC tandem mass spectrometer (LC/MS/MS Ion Trap)
  • Applied Biosystems QSTAR XL hybrid LC/MS/MS system

Dedicated on June 3, the $1.8 million metabolomics facility provides biologists state-of-the-art instruments for analyzing thousands of metabolites to understand gene function more clearly. Metabolites --the biochemicals that make up an organism -- are the building blocks of all biological products, including those important to agriculture, like oils and sugars.

Metabolomics has the potential of revealing how the genome (genetic blueprint) of an organism controls and regulates the metabolism that maintains biological form and function. Metabolism is the complex network of chemical reactions that converts metabolites to final products.

"A detailed understanding of how genes function to regulate biological processes in plants and crops holds great promise for agriculture," said Basil Nikolau, professor of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, and director of the Center for Designer Crops.

The laboratory has sophisticated separation and detection equipment that evaluates a wide variety of metabolites, allowing researchers to conduct high-throughput micro-analysis of metabolites in plant tissues. Already, research conducted in the laboratory is revealing the secrets of how corn and soybeans make valuable agricultural products.

Proteomics Facility

77 Roy J. Carver Co-Laboratory
Bill Lewis, laboratory manager
4-6473, (services and fees will be posted on the Web page soon)


  • Typhoon 9410 3-laser imaging system
  • ABI Q-Star quadrapole-TOF mass spectrometer equipped with ESI, nanospray and oMALDI sources
  • LC-Packings Ultima capillary high pressure liquid chromatography system
  • Ettan proteomics sample preparation workstation

The Proteomics Facility, which is part of the Center for Plant Genomics, will open this summer. The lab can help researchers develop crops with improved agronomic traits, identify pathogens and improve the nutritional quality of food. It will enable scientists to identify high-valued proteins in complex mixtures of proteins.

The thousands of proteins that make up the individual cells of an organism is called the proteome. It is extremely complex. Multiple forms of a protein can be produced from a single gene, and protein levels vary widely -- from just a few molecules to several million per cell. A protein may have more that one function, and frequently operates as part of a complex. In addition, the functions of many proteins aren't known yet. To overcome these challenges, highly sophisticated technology is required for proteome analysis.

"In the past, scientists isolated and purified each protein individually, which took years. Only recently have we been able to identify and characterize proteins en masse," said William (Bill) Lewis, manager of the facility since April.

Lewis said the facility's focus is on analyzing the differences in profiles of complex protein mixtures, including those from different genotypes, environmental conditions and points in time (for example, during develop-ment or growth, or during progression of a disease).

An advanced work station in the facility uses robotics to provide high-throughput processing of gel-based samples and automatically picks individual proteins in preparation for mass spectrometric analysis. Few laboratories in the nation have the cutting-edge Ettan proteomics work station, Lewis said. The instrument can be used on animal, human or plant cells.

The Proteomics Facility also will provide an analytical arm for the Iowa Biologics Facility, a protein purification plant planned for the ISU Research Park.

Pioneer Hi-Bred International Genomics Laboratory

2025 Roy J. Carver Co-Laboratory
Hailing Jin, facility manager
4-7491, (services, fees and billing info are on the Web page)


  • Cartesian PixSys 5500 arrayer
  • Arrayer robot arm
  • General Scanning ScanArray 5000
  • MJ Research Inc. PTC-225 DNA engine tetrad cycler
  • Leica Microsystems CM1850 cryostat
  • Software available for microarray data capture and analysis include Biodiscovery Inc.'s CloneTracker and ImaGene software products.

Established in 1999 (and formerly known as the MicroArray Facility), this facility features equipment and expertise needed to produce and scan microarrays. The instruments can be used to determine the expression patterns of thousands of genes in parallel.

"Omics" glossary

Genomics: Genetics looks at single genes, one at a time; genomics looks at the total set of genes -- the genetic blueprint -- of an organism.

Metabolomics: A fusion of metabolism and genomics, metabolomics uses sophisticated analytical instruments to accurately measure, en masse, the biochemicals (metabolites) that make up an organism.

Proteomics: The analysis of complex mixtures of proteins and their functions.

Post-genomics: Generally refers to functional genomics, or the determination of biological function from raw sequence data.