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Friday Evening Lecture Series

08/17/12
Lillie Auditorium, 8:00 PM

Bonnie Bassler

Sager Lecture - "How Bacteria Talk To Each Other"
Bonnie L. Bassler, Princeton University; Howard Hughes Medical Institute


Lecture Abstract:
Bacteria communicate with one another using small chemical molecules that they release into the environment. These molecules travel from cell to cell and the bacteria have receptors on their surfaces that allow them to detect and respond to the build up of the molecules. This process of cell-to-cell communication in bacteria is called “Quorum Sensing” and it allows bacteria to synchronize behavior on a population-wide scale. Bacterial behaviors controlled by quorum sensing are usually ones that are unproductive when undertaken by an individual bacterium acting alone but become effective when undertaken in unison by the group. For example, quorum sensing controls virulence, sporulation, and the exchange of DNA. Thus, quorum sensing is a mechanism that allows bacteria to function as multi-cellular organisms. Cell-to-cell communication in bacteria was likely one of the first steps in the evolution of higher organisms. Current biomedical research is focused on the development of novel anti-bacterial therapies aimed at interfering with quorum sensing. Such therapies could be used to control bacterial pathogenicity.



Dr. Ruth SagerAbout the Sager Lecture
Dr. Ruth Sager was chief of cancer genetics at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a professor at Harvard Medical School where she was an acknowledged expert on suppressor genes and their relation to breast cancer. Dr. Sager was the author of more than 200 scientific papers on cancer genetics and the existence of DNA outside of cell nuclei, her first field of research, which she pursued through the study of algae. In 1988, Dr. Sager received the Gilbert Morgan Smith Medal in phycology. This medal is awarded every three years in recognition of excellence in published research on marine or freshwater algae. After switching her field of study to breast cancer in 1972, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship and studied the disease for a year at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratory in London, England. Dr. Sager graduated from the University of Chicago. She earned a master’s degree at Rutgers University and a doctorate at Columbia University. Dr. Sager was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1977. She was a professor at Hunter College until 1975, when she joined Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Her cancer research involved the identification of more than 40 possible tumor suppressor genes with implications in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. She also proved “by persistent counterexample, where originality leads,” according to the University of Chicago Magazine article, published in 1994 when she was named alumna of the year. Dr. Sager died of cancer in March, 1997, at the age of 79.