Since graduate school, Dr. Susan L. Lindquist has been interested in how cells react to stressful situations, such as exposure to heat or noxious chemicals. Recently, her work in this area on heat-shock, or chaperone, proteins has serendipitously helped unravel a decades-old genetic mystery: the identity of an unconventional, inherited genetic element in yeast cells called [PSI +]. Dr. Lindquist's group was among the first to provide in vitro biochemical evidence that the protein encoded by the yeast [PSI +] gene, Sup35, appears to act similarly to prions, the protein culprits that have been linked to the devastating neurological ailment Creutzfeld-Jakob disease in people and its correlate in cows, "mad-cow" disease. Her work on yeast chaperones has introduced a whole new role for these proteins in coaxing prions to aggregate into stringy fibers, and may eventually point to new therapeutic targets by offering scientists a simple model system in which to study prion-related diseases and potential therapies.
Dr. Lindquist is a professor in the department of molecular genetics and cell biology at the University of Chicago and is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She received a B.A. in microbiology from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago funded by the American Cancer Society, she became an assistant professor of biology at the University of Chicago. She was promoted to associate professor of biology in 1984, and became a full professor in 1988.
She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996, and to the National Academy of Sciences in 1997. She has served on the editorial boards of a variety of journals and has been a consultant to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago as well as in the making of an award-winning short science film on recombinant DNA technology, "Lights Breaking."
Dr. Lindquist has been an NIGMS grantee since 1978.
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