Renowned molecular biologist Karolin Luger will speak about her research into the structure of the genome at this year’s Murray Honors Visiting Scholar lecture, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Lory Student Center Ballroom.
Luger is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and a Jennie-Smoly-Caruthers Endowed Chair of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She was a faculty member in Colorado State University’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from 1999-2015.
Untangling the genome
In each of our cells, DNA is packaged tightly into building blocks known as nucleosomes. For a long time, not much was known about their structure, which impacts how our DNA is replicated and repaired – and even how our genes are expressed. But in 1997, Luger and colleagues captured and described the first detailed 3-D images of these crucial cellular components. The discovery was published in Nature and launched Luger into international renown in the field.
Luger has gone on to unravel more mysteries about the inner workings of our genetic code, including chromatin – the larger complex of DNA, RNA, and protein – and histones, the spool-like proteins around which DNA is wound.
In addition to new fundamental understandings of how our bodies manipulate the code of life, Luger’s work has also had implications for health and medical research. In 2005, for example, she and a colleague showed that a virus uses the host cell’s chromatin to cause the spread of Kaposi’s sarcoma, a form of cancer.
Luger received her Ph.D. in biochemistry and biophysics from the University of Basel in Switzerland before going to work at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. In 1999, she joined the faculty at CSU, where she was named a University Distinguished Professor, a Monfort Professor, and won a Jack E. Cermak Outstanding Advisor Award. She was also among the founders, in 2015 –and remains a member – of the Institute for Genome Architecture and Function, funded by the CSU Vice President for Research. She and her lab moved to CU Boulder in 2015.
Her work has been acknowledged with awards from the Searle Scholars Program, National Institutes of Health and the W. M. Keck Foundation, among others. She has served on the National Institute of General Medical Sciences Advisory Council and was selected as the National Lecturer for the Biophysical Society in 2013. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Luger’s Oct. 18 talk, titled “All Wound Up and Ready to Go: Packaging Old and New Genomes,” is free and open to the public. She will also deliver a research seminar at 4 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Lory Student Center Theater titled “The Nucleosome at 20: Chillin’ and Mingling at the Centomere.”
The Murray Honors Visiting Scholar series is co-hosted by the Colorado State University Honors Program and the College of Natural Sciences. It is made possible by a generous gift from Jack and Nadine Murray. Luger is the third Murray Honors Visiting Scholar. Yale University Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Joan Steitz was last year’s scholar. Nobel Laureate and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics Carol Greider was the inaugural scholar in 2015.