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When introducing carbohydrate polymers, general biology
textbooks typically give center stage to starch, cellulose and
chitin. They seldom mention that chains of carbohydrates with complex
and dynamic structures coat the surfaces of our cells and undergird
cellular communication, the basis of everything from embryonic
development to immune response.
Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi of the University of California, Berkeley,
would like discussions of glycan polymers to parallel those on
nucleic acids and proteins. She points out that while every biologist
knows that there are 20 amino acids and four DNA nucleotides, few
automatically know the number of monosaccharide building blocks. (The answer is 9.) In fact, carbohydrates attached to proteins
after translation add an essential level of complexity to our genetic
Bertozzi will describe techniques for studying glycans in mammals
in this year's DeWitt Stetten, Jr. Lecture, titled, "Chemistry
in Living Systems: New Tools for Probing the Glycome." The talk,
part of the NIH Director's Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series and
sponsored by NIGMS, will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 3 p.m.
in Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10.
||Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi
Bertozzi, who trained as an organic chemist, applies the tools
of chemistry to perturb biological systems and define how biological
pathways function. In particular, she has developed a number of
techniques for modifying cell-surface carbohydrates in living cells
and animals. One of her aims is to identify markers for cancer,
since glycosylation profiles are altered in malignant cells.
NIGMS director Dr. Jeremy Berg calls Bertozzi a leader in chemical
biology. "The power of her approach," he says, "goes beyond her
remarkable skill in manipulating the chemistry of carbohydrates.
She also knows the critical biological questions to ask."
During her career, Bertozzi has acquired expertise in a wide range
of fields, from organic and synthetic chemistry to physical imaging.
Her roughly 50-person lab at UC Berkeley studies a wide range of
subjects. In addition to glycomics, her group conducts research
on artificial bone synthesis, biological nanoscience and the sulfation
pathways critical for the virulence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Bertozzi is a professor of chemistry and of molecular and cell
biology at Berkeley, where she has been a faculty member since
1996. She is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical
Institute and a faculty member at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
She received an A.B. in chemistry in 1988 from Harvard University
and a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1993 from Berkeley. She conducted postdoctoral
research in immunology with Mark Bednarski at the University of
California, San Francisco. Her many honors include a MacArthur
Foundation Fellowship in 1999 and election to the National Academy
of Sciences earlier this year. Bertozzi is also a co-founder of
Thios Pharmaceuticals and has 15 issued and pending patents.
NIGMS has supported Bertozzi's research since 1999.
For more information or for reasonable accommodation, call Hilda
Madine at (301) 594-5595.