Blackburn to Present Gladstone Distinguished Lecture, Mar. 7

By John Watson on February 11, 2005

Elizabeth Blackburn

Elizabeth H. Blackburn, PhD, will present the 2005 Gladstone Distinguished Lecture in Molecular and Cell Biology on Monday, March 7. Titled "Telomeres and Telomerase in Health and Disease," the lecture will begin at 4 p.m. in the Robert W. Mahley Auditorium in the Gladstone building, 1650 Owens St., adjacent to the UCSF Mission Bay campus. Gladstone will host a reception for Blackburn in the auditorium lobby immediately following the talk. Blackburn is the Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics, and a faculty member of the Program in Biological Sciences and the Biomedical Sciences Program at UCSF. Her research on the synthesis, structure and function of telomeres has great implications for aging and carcinogenesis and has been reported extensively in peer-reviewed journals. Blackburn and her research team are analyzing telomerases and telomeres in yeasts and in human cancer cells to understand the full roles of telomerase in cell division processes. Telomeres are the natural ends of linear chromosomes in eukaryotes and consist of DNA-plus-protein structures that protect the ends of chromosomes from damage and DNA loss. Blackburn showed that the DNA sequences of telomeres are synthesized by a widely conserved ribonucleoprotein enzyme called telomerase, whose RNA includes a short-template sequence. Telomerase is a specialized reverse transcriptase found in normal cells. Unlike viral reverse transcriptases, the integral RNA of telomerase has a key role in the enzyme's action. In genetic experiments, Blackburn's laboratory found that certain telomerase RNA mutants cause telomere shortening and senescence in Tetrahymena and yeasts. In human cancer cells grown in the laboratory, she and her colleagues showed that inhibitors of telomerase caused telomeres to shorten. Other mutations in telomerase cause telomeres to get too long or too short, or cause cells to stop dividing in anaphase in the cell cycle. Blackburn earned her BSc and MSc degrees from the University of Melbourne in Australia and her PhD from the University of Cambridge in England. She did her postdoctoral work in molecular and cellular biology at Yale University. In 1978, she joined the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1990, she came to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UCSF, where she served as department chair from 1993 to 1999. Throughout her career, Blackburn has been honored with many prestigious awards. She was elected as a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences in 1993 and to the Institute of Medicine in 2000. She served as president of the American Society for Cell Biology in 1998, and was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1991), the Royal Society of London (1992), the American Academy of Microbiology (1993), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2000). Gladstone is a private, nonprofit biomedical research institution affiliated with UCSF, devoted to research into cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, and Alzheimer's disease and related neurological conditions. Source: John Watson

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