Max Perutz Lecture to be given by Erin O’Shea

Erin O’Shea
© Erin O’Shea

Erin O’Shea will give the 2017 Max Perutz Lecture on Wednesday 7th March 2018 at 11.00am in the Max Perutz Lecture Theatre at the LMB. The lecture entitled “On clocks and tuners: cyanobacterial strategies to thrive in a dynamic environment” is open to anyone in the local area who is interested in attending.

Erin is currently the President of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and is developing a research program at HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus. Her research has examined the function and mechanism of oscillation of a three-protein circadian clock and on the way cells sense and respond to changes in their environment.

Erin did her PhD in chemistry at MIT before doing postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. In 1993 she joined the faculty at UC San Francisco and in 2005 Erin moved to Harvard University where she was Paul C. Mangelsdorf Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a professor of chemistry and chemical biology. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the America Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Microbiology.

Lecture abstract

Organisms across all kingdoms of life have evolved circadian clocks to temporally align biological activities with diurnal changes in the environment.  In the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus the core oscillator is comprised of the proteins KaiA, KaiB, and KaiC that generate oscillations in the phosphorylation state of KaiC.  Time encoded in the phosphorylation state of KaiC is transmitted to the master transcriptional regulator RpaA to generate changes in circadian gene expression. Although the circadian output does not affect growth in constant light conditions, it has substantial effects on fitness in cycling conditions when dark and light periods alternate. In my talk I will describe our findings that reveal why the circadian system is important under cycling conditions and how cellular physiology is altered in these conditions.

Background information

The Max Perutz Lecture is named in honour of LMB Nobel Laureate Max Perutz.  It is one of a series of named lectures organised by the LMB to be given by eminent scientists from around the world. Max Perutz arrived at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge in 1936, to work in the field of X-ray crystallography. This move would lead to him becoming a pioneer in the new field of molecular biology, co-founding a world-class research laboratory and developing a technique to unlock the structures of proteins. Max played a key role in the history of the LMB. He was Director of the ‘MRC Unit for Research on the Molecular Structure of Biological Systems’ when it was established in 1947; and when the unit became the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in 1962, he became its first Chairman. Max Perutz officially retired as Chairman of the LMB in 1979, having overseen the development of the MRC unit into a first class research laboratory. He died in Cambridge on 6 February 2002, aged 87.

Further references

Erin O’Shea’s HHMI biography
Max Perutz biography
Poster for the Max Perutz Lecture