April 2010

Member Spotlight

Shapiro Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Spotlight---ShapiroLucy Shapiro, director of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine at Stanford University, is the recipient of the Abbott-American Society for Microbiology Lifetime Achievement Award. It is ASM’s premier award for sustained contributions to the microbiological sciences.

Shapiro’s three decades of work on Caulobacter cresentus has provided the most thorough understanding of the cell cycle in bacteria. Her research has shown that the cell is an integrated system with transcriptional circuitry that is interwoven with the three-dimensional deployment of key regulatory and morphological proteins. By using cell biology, molecular genetics, genomic analyses and molecular imaging, Shapiro and her co-workers have made significant advances in understanding three fundamental problems: the complete genetic network that controls bacterial cell cycle progression, how a dividing cell can produce two progeny with different cell fates and how subcellular structures are built at specific sites on the cell and at specific times in the cell cycle. Shapiro also discovered two master regulatory proteins, CtrA and GcrA, that are key components of a genetic circuit that drives cell-cycle progression and asymmetric polar morphogenesis in C. cresentus.

Wente Named Vice Chancellor, Senior Associate Dean

Spotlight---WenteSusan Wente has been named associate vice chancellor for research and senior associate dean for biomedical sciences at Vanderbilt University. In her new roles, Wente is working with faculty members to enhance communication and nurture the progress of Vanderbilt’s research enterprise, while continuing her own research and teaching duties.

Wente, who is also professor of cell and developmental biology, studies the mechanisms involved in the highly selective, bidirectional exchange of proteins and RNA between the nucleus and cytoplasm. She uses yeast, cultured human cells and zebrafish model systems to address three broad questions: (1) How are nuclear pore complexes assembled? (2) How do proteins and genetic material move through the nuclear pore complex? And, (3) how does inositol polyphosphate signaling regulate vertebrate development? She and her collaborators have made breakthroughs in understanding the mechanisms of assembly, translocation through and regulation of nuclear pore complexes, as well as the basis of transport-factor interactions with the nuclear pore complex proteins. Lab members also have discovered a nuclear inositol polyphosphate pathway that is required for efficient mRNA export in both yeast and vertebrate cells. This signaling pathway represents a new frontier for regulating gene expression and cell physiology.

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