Lasker Award honors Rockefeller University biochemist for pioneering studies of gene activation

fat cells -- a finding that may one day contribute to new treatments for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other conditions in which the fat-making process breaks down.

More recently, in the journal Cell, Roeder's lab has reported that a coactivator called OCA-S -- a relative of coactivator OCA-B -- is activated during a specific phase of the cell cycle, when the DNA is duplicated and the number of chromosomes doubles. The activation of OCA-S in turn leads to the production of new histones. Histones are spool-like proteins that DNA wraps around to condense and compact itself in the nucleus of all body cells.

An unexpected but extremely exciting finding was that a key component of this complex proved identical to a cellular (cytoplasmic) enzyme long implicated in metabolism and energy production, thus linking the regulation of cell growth and proliferation (through the control of histone biosynthesis) to the metabolic state of the cell. These findings add to a growing body of research from the Roeder lab that is beginning to define more specific physiological roles for the poorly understood coactivators.

Four decades of honors

Roeder was born in Boonville, Indiana, in 1942. He received a B.A. degree summa cum laude in chemistry from Wabash College in 1964, an M.S. in chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1965, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Washington, Seattle, in 1969. He completed postdoctoral work at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, in Baltimore, from 1969 to 1971.

He was named assistant professor of biological chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis in 1971, associate professor in 1975, and professor in 1976. In 1978, he was appointed professor of genetics, and in the following year, was named James S. McDonnell Professor of Biochemical Genetics. In 1982, he accepted a professorship at Rockefeller University and organized a new Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Biochem

Contact: Joseph Bonner
Rockefeller University

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