Jack E. Dixon was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1966, and his doctorate in chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1971. He did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Diego, from 1971 to 1973. Dixon then went to Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, joining the faculty of the Department of Biochemistry, and remained there for 18 years. He was named Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry in 1986. In 1991, Dixon moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to become chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry at the University of Michigan. In 2003, he returned to California to become dean of scientific affairs at the University of California, San Diego, as well as being a professor of pharmacology, cellular and molecular medicine, chemistry, and biochemistry.
Early in his career, Dixon was a leader in research on the biosynthesis and post-translational processing of polypeptide hormones. He adopted the tools of molecular biology as they became available in the late 1970s, and his laboratory was among the first to use a synthetic oligonucleotide to identify and clone cDNAs encoding peptide hormones, such as somatostatin, cholecystokinin, and neuropeptide Y. He subsequently became a pioneer in the structure and function of the protein tyrosine phosphatases and their roles in cellular signaling. Dixon's work on protein-tyrosine phosphatases and PTEN was featured as a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1). More recently, Dixon's research has focused on the PTEN tumor suppressor gene. He showed how loss of PTEN, which shares sequence identity with phosphatases, results in the development of cancer. Currently, Dixon is studying how phosphatase master switches control the guidance signal that leads to establishing a wiring diagram for the nervous system.
Dixon has authored or coauthored more than 250 scientific articles. He served as the president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1996 and is a member of the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences. He was named the Michigan Scientist of the Year in 1994. In 1997, he received the University of Michigan Distinguished Faculty Lectureship Award in Biomedical Research. In 1999, he was chosen as the University of Michigan Henry Russel Lecturer, and in 2005 he received the ASBMB-Merck award.
1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2006) Protein-tyrosine phosphatases and PTEN: The work of Jack E. Dixon. J. Biol. Chem. 281 (51)