Susan Gottesman: pioneira nas pesquisas sobre procariotos

quinta-feira, julho 16, 2009

The Scientist

Volume 23 | Issue 7 | Page 48

By Karen Hopkin

Prokaryotic Pioneer

© Jason Varney |

Always a trailblazer, Susan Gottesman laid the foundation for two new fields in bacterial gene regulation.

As an undergraduate at Radcliffe College—Harvard's allgirl sister institution—in the 1960s, Susan Gottesman earned pocket money working as a technician in Jim Watson's Harvard lab. "I would hear stories of people going to mixers at Radcliffe and meeting this strange guy who said he was a professor," she laughs. "But in the lab he was perfectly well behaved." And he encouraged Gottesman to get some hands-on experience by helping a grad student with his experiments. "I didn't know enough science to understand everything that was going on," she says. "But I got to do what I wanted, which was playing in a lab and learning through osmosis."

And through the years, Gottesman has certainly built on everything she's absorbed. As an independent investigator at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—where she set up shop in 1976—Gottesman made major contributions in the field of prokaryotic gene regulation, uncovering key roles played by two families of molecules: ATP-dependent proteases and small RNAs. "If you make a list of the 10 most important discoveries in bacterial genetics or physiology over the past 15 or 20 years, two of hers will be very high on that list," says Princeton's David Botstein.

Early in her career, Gottesman dissected the functions of energy-dependent proteases that are the bacterial equivalents of the proteasome. "Before Susan, there wasn't much known about these proteins," says Thomas Silhavy, also at Princeton. "She figured out that their substrates are often regulatory proteins, and that proteolysis has a major impact on gene regulation. I think that work got her into the National Academy."


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