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Vol. LVII, No. 20
October 7, 2005

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Bertozzi To Give Stetten Lecture, Oct. 26

On the front page...

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 makeup.


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.

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