Biopharmaceuticals: A Positive Role for Tobacco In the Fight Against HIV

Biologically produced medications, such as recombinant insulin or therapeutic antibodies to fight cancer, have become indispensable. Plants are particularly suitable for producing complex active substances. The reason is that these substances can be produced inexpensively and on a large scale in plants. Compared to producing them in animal cells, plants have the advantage that they grow quickly, are easy to look after and can be protected well against damaging influences.

Tobacco has long been a very interesting plant for molecular biologists. It is easy to modify, meaning a foreign gene coding for the pharmaceutical protein can be introduced. In addition, a lot of biomass grows quickly and therefore a greater quantity of the desired  – and safe – active proteins is also produced.   The second challenge, high yield harvesting of protein from the plant leaves, is solved by food industry technologies whic can produce the quality and quantity of proteins suitable for use in clinical studies.    Read more about Medicines from Plants .

Structure Formed by Strep Protein Can Trigger Toxic Shock

 Infection with some strains of strep turn deadly when a protein found on their surface triggers a widespread inflammatory reaction.  Researchers describe the precise architecture of a superstructure formed when the bacterial protein called M1 links with a host protein, fibrinogen, that is normally involved in clotting blood.  The proteins form scaffolds with M1 joints and fibrinogen struts that assemble into dense superstructures. Frontline immune cells called neutrophils mistake these thick networks for blood clots and overreact, releasing a chemical signal that can dilate vessels to the point where they leak.   Read about this research in NATURE.

Fifty years ago at The Rockefeller Institute


“The most significant achievements of the Rockefeller Institute are to be found recorded in the scientific papers published by our faculty and in the subsequent achievements of our students. It is a purpose of the new Rockefeller Institute Quarterly to tell more immediately of the manifold undertakings of the faculty and staff in furthering our research and educational objectives” – DETLEV W. BRONK, President

Lectures, Conferences and Symposia


Address, Duke University Faculty Club

Address, Science Symposium, Trinity College


Lecture, Annual lectureship of The Hospital of the Good Samaritan, Los Angeles


Lecture, Division of Biological Sciences, University of Chicago

Lecture, Medical Research Society, Yale University


Lecture Series, University of Michigan Institute of Science and Technology

Lecture, Genetics-Cytology program, University of Indiana


Lecture, New York University School of Medicine


Opening Address, Conference of Biological Editors, The Rockefeller Institute

Society Elections


Honorary Member, The Rockefeller Institute Chapter of the Society of Sigma Xi


Vice President, Harvey Society

New Appointments to the Faculty


Guest Investigator with Professor Rollin Hotchkiss. Fellow of the American Cancer Society. Formerly National Institutes of Health Fellow in the Department of Biochemistry, Columbia University

The Fates of Embryonic Cells Indicated by Epigenetic Markers

Discovering the step-by-step details of the path embryonic cells take to develop into their final tissue type is the clinical goal of many stem cell biologists. To that end, Kenneth S. Zaret, PhD, professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and associate director of the Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and Cheng-Ran Xu, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Zaret laboratory, looked at immature cells called progenitors and found a way to potentially predict their fate. They base this on how histones are marked by other proteins.  Read about this research in the May 20, 2011 issue of SCIENCE.

The Crisis in Higher Education: perspective of William Deresiewicz

William Deresiewicz at The Nation says that the PhD problem in the US — that there are too many PhDs for the number of academic jobs available — all boils down to “efficiency.”   Deresiewicz says that because they are “cheaper to hire and easier to fire,” contingent academic employees — such as non-tenure-track faculty — save institutions money. Deresiewicz goes on to analogize that over the few decades “what has happened in academia is what has happened throughout the American economy. Good, secure, well-paid positions — tenured appointments in the academy, union jobs on the factory floor — are being replaced by temporary, low-wage employment,” he says.  Read the full article online.

Recommended Readings: Katrina Podsypanina, M.D., Ph.D.

Friday Lecture Series

Switching the Lights Out on Cancer: Regulated Oncogenes to Model Cures

Katrina Podsypanina, M.D., Ph.D., assistant research professor, director,

mammary cancer biology research unit,

Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal

May 20, 2011

3:45 p.m.-5:00 p.m. (Refreshments, 3:15 p.m., Abby Lounge)

Caspary Auditorium

Kwabi-Addo, B., D. Giri, K. Schmidt, K. Podsypanina, R. Parsons, N. Greenberg, and M. Ittmann. 2001. Haploinsufficiency of the pten tumor suppressor gene promotes prostate cancer progression. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 98, (20): 11563-11568

Li, Y., B. Welm, K. Podsypanina, S. Huang, M. Chamorro, X. Zhang, T. Rowlands, et al. 2003. Evidence that transgenes encoding components of the wnt signaling pathway preferentially induce mammary cancers from progenitor cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100, (26): 15853-15858

Podsypanina, K., L. H. Ellenson, A. Nemes, J. Gu, M. Tamura, K. M. Yamada, C. Cordon-Cardo, G. Catoretti, P. E. Fisher, and R. Parsons. 1999. Mutation of Pten/Mmac1 in mice causes neoplasia in multiple organ systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 96, (4): 1563-1568

Podsypanina, K., R. T. Lee, C. Politis, I. Hennessy, A. Crane, J. Puc, M. Neshat, et al. 2001. An inhibitor of mTOR reduces neoplasia and normalizes p70/s6 kinase activity in pten+/- mice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 98, (18): 10320-10325

Varmus, H., Pao, W., Politi, K., Podsypanina, K., and Du, Y. -. N. Oncogenes come of age. 2005

Important Information for NIH Funded Authors Using Springer Journals

A well-known international publisher, Springer, has changed its procedures for submission of articles reporting NIH funded research to the PubMed Central repository.  Springer has been willing to do the submission on behalf of NIH authors whose articles are published in Springer titles – IF the author identified the manuscript as falling under the submission guidelines and also requested submission assistance.   Recently Springer has introduced a new policy requiring authors who submit manuscripts reporting NIH funded research to complete an additional form that is only available electronically, but not readily discoverable at the Springer website.  If you wish to publish in a Springer title,  your manuscript is reporting NIH funded research, and you would like Springer to do the submission on your behalf, then please use this link:   and complete this online form.  

Examples of Springer titles are:   Journal of Structural and Functional Genomics, Journal of Molecular Modeling, Neural Systems and Circuits, Brain Structure and Function.

Recommended Readings: Karel Svoboda, Ph.D.

Friday Lecture Series

The Cortical Circuits Underlying Object Localization

Karel Svoboda, Ph.D., group leader, Janelia Farm Research Campus,

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

May 13, 2011

3:45 p.m.-5:00 p.m. (Refreshments, 3:15 p.m., Abby Lounge)

Caspary Auditorium

Bureau, I., G. M. G. Shepherd, and K. Svoboda. 2008. Circuit and plasticity defects in the developing somatosensory cortex of Fmr1 knock-out mice. Journal of Neuroscience 28, (20): 5178-5188

Chen, B. E., J. T. Trachtenberg, A. J. G. D. Holtmaat, and K. Svoboda. 2008. Long-term, high-resolution imaging in the neocortex in vivo. Cold Spring Harbor Protocols 3, (1)

Holtmaat, A., L. Wilbrecht, G. W. Knott, E. Welker, and K. Svoboda. 2006. Experience-dependent and cell-type-specific spine growth in the neocortex. Nature 441, (7096): 979-983

Luo, L., E. M. Callaway, and K. Svoboda. 2008. Genetic dissection of neural circuits. Neuron 57, (5): 634-660

Petreanu, L., D. Huber, A. Sobczyk, and K. Svoboda. 2007. Channelrhodopsin-2-assisted circuit mapping of long-range callosal projections. Nature neuroscience 10, (5): 663-668

NASA’s Gravity Probe B Confirms Two Einstein Space-Time Theories

NASA’s Gravity Probe B (GP-B) mission has confirmed two key predictions derived from Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which the spacecraft was designed to test.  

The experiment, launched in 2004, used four ultra-precise gyroscopes to measure the hypothesized geodetic effect, the warping of space and time around a gravitational body, and frame-dragging, the amount a spinning object pulls space and time with it as it rotates.

GP-B determined both effects with unprecedented precision by pointing at a single star, IM Pegasi, while in a polar orbit around Earth. If gravity did not affect space and time, GP-B’s gyroscopes would point in the same direction forever while in orbit. But in confirmation of Einstein’s theories, the gyroscopes experienced measurable, minute changes in the direction of their spin, while Earth’s gravity pulled at them.

The findings are online in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Recommended Readings: Loren Walensky, M.D., Ph.D.

Friday Lecture Series

Dissecting the BCL-2 Family Interaction Network with Stapled Peptides:

Mechanistic Insights and Pharmacologic Opportunities

Loren Walensky, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, department of pediatrics, Harvard Medical School;

assistant professor, pediatric oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

May 6, 2011

3:45 p.m.-5:00 p.m. (Refreshments, 3:15 p.m., Abby Lounge)

Caspary Auditorium

Braun, C. R., J. Mintseris, E. Gavathiotis, G. H. Bird, S. P. Gygi, and L. D. Walensky. 2010. Photoreactive stapled BH3 peptides to dissect the BCL-2 family interactome. Chemistry and Biology 17, (12): 1325-1333

Kyoung, J. O., S. Barbuto, K. Pitter, J. Morash, L. D. Walensky, and S. J. Korsmeyer. 2006. A membrane-targeted BID BCL-2 homology 3 peptide is sufficient for high potency activation of BAX in vitro. Journal of Biological Chemistry 281, (48): 36999-37008

Letai, A., M. C. Bassik, L. D. Walensky, M. D. Sorcinelli, S. Weiler, and S. J. Korsmeyer. 2002. Distinct BH3 domains either sensitize or activate mitochondrial apoptosis, serving as prototype cancer therapeutics. Cancer Cell 2, (3): 183-192

Parra, M., P. Gascard, L. D. Walensky, J. A. Gimm, S. Blackshaw, N. Chan, Y. Takakuwa, et al. 2000. Molecular and functional characterization of protein 4.1B, a novel member of the protein 4.1 family with high level, focal expression in brain. Journal of Biological Chemistry 275, (5): 3247-3255

Walensky, L. D. 2006. BCL-2 in the crosshairs: Tipping the balance of life and death. Cell death and differentiation 13, (8): 1339-1350