Friday Evening Lecture Series – Glassman Lecture – “Protein Folding in the Cell: The final Step of Information Transfer”

Date(s) - 08/03/2012
8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Lillie Auditorium

Friday Evening Lecture Series
Glassman Lecture – “Protein Folding in the Cell: The final Step of Information Transfer”

Arthur L. Horwich, Yale University, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
August 3, 2012, 8:00 PM, Lillie Auditorium

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Lecture Abstract:
Proteins are made from chains of 20 different amino acids, each protein with a characteristic sequence.  A newly made chain folds in intricate ways into a unique three-dimensional structure that has a biological activity.  This folding process was long thought to be a spontaneous process.  In the late 1950s, American biochemist Christian Anfinsen showed an enzyme unfolded by treatment with a denaturant spontaneously refolded back to its native form.  Work of recent times, however, makes clear that many proteins require additional assistance by specialized proteins, called molecular chaperones, to reach their native active forms.  As suggested by their name, molecular chaperones prevent “illicit” interactions between proteins.  Such interactions often have deleterious or fatal consequences for the cell or organism, as occurs, for example, in a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases.  Our work has focused, using a variety of techniques, on one type of chaperone, called a chaperonin, a double-ring “machine” that has the remarkable ability to promote proper folding of an initially captured protein to its native state inside an encapsulated chamber.

Arthur L. Horwich is the Sterling Professor of Genetics and Professor of Pediatrics at Yale University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Dr. Horwich received undergraduate and M.D. degrees from Brown University, trained in pediatrics at Yale, and was a postdoctoral fellow first at Salk Institute and then Yale before joining the Yale faculty in 1984.  In 2011, Dr. Horwich was named co-winner of the prestigious Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, with Dr. Franz-Ulrich Hartl of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, for their discovery that proteins cannot fold inside cells by themselves. They determined in the 1980s that a protein—dubbed “chaperonin” because of its assisting role—acts as a cage-like folding “machine” that provides a safe place for proteins to fold, away from outside interference.  Dr. Horwich has used genetic, biochemical, and biophysical tools to study the mechanism of action of these ring-shaped, so-called chaperonin machines that provide essential assistance to protein folding in many cellular compartments.  More recently Dr. Horwich has focused on neurodegenerative disease as caused by protein misfolding, seeking to understand how misfolded SOD1 enzyme in the cytosol of motor neurons leads to one form of ALS.   In addition to the Lasker Award, Dr. Horwich has also been the recipient of the Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Science (2008), Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences (2007), and the Gairdner International Award (2004). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2003.

President and Director of the MBL, Dr. Gary Borisy, will introduce Dr. Horwich. Dr. Borisy became the laboratory’s 13th Director in 2006. Previously he was Associate Vice President for Research and the Leslie B. Arey Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. After serving a postdoctoral fellowship at the MRC in Cambridge, England, Dr. Borisy joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, rising through the professional ranks to Chairman of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Perlman-Bascom Professor of Life Sciences, before moving to Northwestern in 2000. At various times throughout his career, Dr. Borisy has spent time at the MBL, conducting research; collaborating with scientists; and participating in some of the MBL’s educational programs. He is the author of more than 200 papers, the editor of two books, and has received numerous professional honors. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a past President of the American Society for Cell Biology.


About the Glassman Lecture:
The Glassman Lecture is held in honor of the late Harold N. Glassman who left a generous bequest to the MBL which resulted in the establishment of the Harold N. Glassman fund, the income from which is used to support an annual Friday Evening Lecture on an important topic in biological research.

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