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Rockefeller University's Pearl Meister Greengard Prize to be awarded to RNA researcher Joan Steitz
Date:9/10/2012

called small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs), which occur only in the cells of higher organisms. These cellular complexes play a key role in the splicing of pre-messenger RNA, the earliest product of DNA transcription. Both DNA and pre-messenger RNA typically contain numerous nonsense segments called "introns." Working in the nucleus, snRNPs cut the introns from pre-mRNA and splice together the resulting segments, which together make up messenger RNA.

Dr. Steitz's research may yield new insights into the diagnosis and treatment of lupus, an autoimmune disease that develops when patients make antibodies against their own DNA, snRNPs, or ribosomes, the body's protein-making factories. She and her colleagues are also studying other snRNPs involved in excising a rare, divergent class of introns and still other snRNPs involved in pre-ribosomal RNA processing.

Dr. Steitz earned her B.S. in chemistry from Antioch College in 1963. She became the sole woman in a class of 10 to begin graduate studies in biochemistry and molecular biology at Harvard, and the first female graduate student to work under Jim Watson's guidance after another male professor questioned her aspirations for a Ph.D. because she was a woman. During postdoctoral studies at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, she used early methods to determine RNA sequences where ribosomes initiate protein synthesis on bacterial mRNAs. She was appointed assistant professor at Yale in 1970, where her laboratory has been dedicated to studying RNA structure and function. In 1979, Dr. Steitz and her colleagues described snRNPs, the building blocks of the spliceosome. Her laboratory has defined the structures and functions of other noncoding ribonucleoproteins, including several produced by transforming herpesviruses.

She has received numerous accolades for her work, including the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, the Gairdner Foundation Inte
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Contact: Zach Veilleux
zveilleux@rockefeller.edu
212-327-8982
Rockefeller University
Source:Eurekalert

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