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NCI's Susan Gottesman To Give Dyer Lecture

By Tinera B. Fobbs

While we now know the full sequence of the genomes for humans, mice, brewer's yeast and many bacteria, understanding how and when different portions of the information in the genomes is used will keep scientists busy for many years to come. Under what circumstances is a particular gene transcribed and translated, and once a protein is made, how and when does the cell get rid of it? Dr. Susan Gottesman, who presents the annual R.E. Dyer Lecture on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 3 p.m. in Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10, has explored two levels at which the expression of genes can be modulated, both active after the messenger RNA for the genes has been made. The talk, titled "Biological Circuits with Small RNA Switches," will address recent work from Gottesman's laboratory on how small RNA molecules can act to cause the destruction or inactivation of specific messenger RNAs, providing an unexpected level of complexity to regulatory networks.

Dr. Susan Gottesman
Gottesman is currently chief of the biochemical genetics section of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, NCI, where she has been since 1976. She received her Ph.D. at the department of microbiology and molecular genetics at Harvard. She and her husband, Michael (now NIH deputy director for intramural research), first came to NIH as postdoctoral fellows in 1971. Her postdoctoral work on site-specific recombination in bacteriophage lambda with yet another (but unrelated) Gottesman, Max Gottesman, led her to an interest in the E. coli proteases that chewed up one of the proteins required for the recombination reaction.

After 2 years at MIT as a research associate, she returned to NIH in 1976 to become a senior investigator in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, continuing studies on these proteases and their substrates. In collaborations with Michael Maurizi in the Laboratory of Cell Biology at NCI, and Sue Wickner in NCI's Laboratory of Molecular Biology, her laboratory has continued to investigate the ATP-dependent proteases of Escherichia coli and their protein targets, studying the mechanism of proteolysis, the basis for target selection and the ways in which unstable proteins are used in regulatory cascades. The architecture and general mechanism of action of the bacterial proteases and their important role in regulating gene expression have proven to be characteristic not only of E. coli, but of eukaryotic organisms as well. This work led to her election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1998 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999. Studies on the role of small RNAs in regulation evolved from the work on proteolysis, and illustrate the multiple levels at which a given gene can be regulated. As with the proteases, small regulatory RNAs have recently been recognized as critical regulatory molecules in eukaryotes as well as bacteria.

The lecture honors Rolla E. Dyer, a former NIH director, and is given to a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to knowledge in a field of medical science. For more information or for reasonable accommodation, contact Hilda Madine, 594-5595.

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