2014 Stetten Lecture -- The Mechanisms of Cytoskeletal Motor Proteins

Masur Auditorium
Clinical Center (Building 10)
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Maryland

Start Date: 10/29/2014 3:00 PM

End Date: 10/29/2014 4:00 PM

2014 Stetten Lecture poster

WatchVideocast of the lecture (live or later)

Speaker: Ron Vale, Ph.D.
Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
University of California, San Francisco

Biographical Sketch

Ron Vale has long been a leader in integrating biochemical, structural and microscopy-based methods to illuminate the critical details of spatial organization, movement and signaling within cells. He explores these processes at a range of levels, from the atomic to the whole cell.

At the smallest scale, Vale and his colleagues seek to understand the functioning of protein machines, with a particular focus on motor proteins.

For many years, Vale concentrated on kinesin, the smallest known molecular motor, which he discovered in 1985 by observing the movement of organelles along microtubule filaments in squid giant axons. In 1996, in collaboration with Robert Fletterick's lab, Vale and his colleagues determined the atomic-resolution structure of the kinesin motor domain and discovered, quite unexpectedly, that it is similar to myosin, the actin-based, prototypical molecular motor.

More recently, Vale has shifted his attention to understanding the mechanisms by which motor proteins in the dynein family power the beating of cilia and flagella, transport intracellular cargoes and help to construct the mitotic spindle. As part of this effort, he and his colleagues obtained the crystal structure of the dynein motor domain, which is approximately tenfold larger than the motor domain of kinesin and thus has posed significant challenges for structural and mechanistic studies.

Vale is also interested in the mechanisms of action of other proteins, including the microtubule nucleating factor augmin, microtubule regulatory proteins and the T-cell receptor, as well as in how collections of protein machines interact to generate complex behavior in living cells.

Vale earned a B.A. in biology and chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1980 and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Stanford University in 1985. His postdoctoral studies at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at Woods Hole focused on microtubule-based motors.

Since 1987, Vale has been on the faculty of the University of California, San Francisco, where he is a professor and vice-chair of the department of cellular and molecular pharmacology. Previously, he served as chair of that department and as director of the university's cell biology program. Vale has also been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator since 1999 and holds an adjunct senior scientist appointment with MBL.

Vale has a strong and long-standing interest in science education. As part of his many efforts in this arena, he founded iBiology.org and produces its highly regarded online collections of lectures presented by leading biologists. He also developed an educational Web site on microscopy for elementary school students and is active in helping young scientists in India.

Among Vale's many honors are the Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry, the Biophysical Society's Young Investigator Award, the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences and the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2001 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002. Vale also served as president of the American Society for Cell Biology in 2012. He holds five patents and is an author on more than 200 journal articles.

NIGMS has supported Vale's research since 1988 under grants R01GM097312 and R37GM038499.