Dr. Thomas Cech, recipient of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, wants everyone to know that his laboratory has moved on from the work that garnered him the Nobel Prize to other things. Dr. Cech’s speech before the standing-room-only crowd brought listeners on a journey from where he was in RNA research 20 years ago to his laboratory’s current investigations into the structure and function of telomeres, the natural ends of linear chromosomes. Dr. Cech was on the Colorado State University campus Feb. 17 as the guest lecturer for the Frontiers in Biomedical Sciences Seminar Series.
In “Crawling out of the RNA World: Telomerase and Telomeres,” Dr. Cech highlighted his research group’s studies of the structure and function of telomeric DNA-protein complexes and of the telomerase enzyme. Members of the Cech laboratory discovered the catalytic protein subunit of telomerase and cloned and sequenced genes encoding it in select protozoa, human, and yeast. The group also has identified the Protection of Telomeres protein that caps the very ends of chromosomes in S. pombe, human, and other eukaryotes.
In addition to the Nobel Prize, Dr. Cech has been the recipient of the Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry (American Chemical Society), the Award in Molecular Biology (U.S. National Academy of Sciences), the Heineken Prize (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), and the Lasker Award. He was elected to the U. S. National Academy of Sciences (1987) and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1988). In 1987, he was awarded a lifetime Professorship by the American Cancer Society, and in 1988 became Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 1995, he received the National Medal of Science.
The Frontiers in Biomedical Sciences Seminar Series was initiated by the Department of Biomedical Sciences in 2003 to sponsor outstanding speakers on leading-edge topics in the biomedical sciences that would appeal to large and diverse audiences. The Series is currently jointly sponsored by the Department of Biomedical Sciences, the Program in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Neuroscience, and the Cell and Molecular Biology Program at Colorado State University.