Monday, April 30, 2007
Herbert Tabor/Journal of Biological Chemistry Lectureship
One of the big events for ASBMB is the Herbert Tabor JBC lecture. It was held Saturday night in one of the large ballrooms. There were about one thousand people attending.
The first lecture was by Tony Hunter from The Salk Institute in California (USA). He spoke about mammalian kinases and phosphorylases with an emphasis on tyrosine kinases, which he discovered back in 1979. Tyrosine kinases are enzymes that attach phosphate groups to tyrosine residues in proteins. They are important because the phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of enzymes regulates their activity. Many of the genes that cause cancer (oncogenes) encode tyrosine kinases.
Hunter is trying to find out how many different proteins kinases there are in humans. The latest count suggests about 900 different enzymes. This is a remarkable number when you think about it. It means that 3-4% of all genes in our genome are kinases.
The second award winner was Tony Pawson from the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute and the University of Toronto (Ontario, Canada). I've heard Tony speak many times so I wasn't quite as attentive during his lecture. Tony discovered a number of proteins domains, notably the SH2 domain, that interact with tyrosine kinases and their target proteins. The work of the two Tony's is complementary and that's why they received this joint award.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that there was a reception after the talks. Lots of delicious munchies and an open bar. I had a beer (or two). Most biochemists drink wine or fruit juice. It was not a wild bunch.