SAB Recommends Promotion and Renewal

Every spring a small number of highly distinguished scientists meet at the Institute to review the work of Stowers investigators. This group, called the Scientific Advisory Board, weighs the merits of laboratory heads and their research programs to ensure the high-caliber, innovative research that has become synonymous with the Stowers Institute name. This year, the board recommended renewal of two researchers.

Ron Yu promoted to Investigator

Ron Yu, PhD, focuses his lab’s research on olfaction. Olfaction, or sense of smell, is a critical means of perceiving and translating information from the environment. In animals it helps them detect food, predators and mates, but sense of smell can also be a conduit for strong emotional connections that influence behavior.

Yu’s lab investigates the neural mechanisms involved in the recognition of odors and their chemical receptors. By dissecting the neural circuitry that processes chemical signals called pheromones, Yu hopes to discover which neurons are responsible for which behaviors and exactly how that information is processed. Understanding these signals and the brain circuits they activate may shed light on how the brain translates senses into meaningful behaviors.

In related work, Yu is developing a new imaging tool that will visualize multiple signals within the neuronal circuit architecture at a much greater resolution. Yu and his team plan to use the new tool to image an entire mouse brain and its neuro-circuits. (See related article).


Jerry Workman renewed as Investigator

Jerry Workman, PhD, in pioneering work, was one of the first scientists to discover that histones are not just architecture of DNA, but also play a vital role in transcribing DNA into RNA. Workman and his team described how certain groups of proteins send signals that initiate the unwinding of tightly bound histone balls so that DNA is readable and available for genes to be turned on or off.

More recently, Workman’s focus has been on histone modifications that generate signals that regulate information contained in the DNA sequence. Complexes of proteins are responsible for histone modification and one such complex that Workman’s group discovered is the SAGA complex. This complex plays an important role in the initiation of gene expression in which DNA is transcribed to RNA.

The team has discovered new functions of these complexes that could play a role in cancer therapies and found subunits within the complexes that control cell migration.