NYU Langone Medical Center Researcher Named Howard Hughes Investigator
Biochemist Evgeny Nudler Explores the Mechanisms of Gene Regulation and Stress Response, Leading to New Therapies against Resistant Bacteria, Cancer, and Neurodegenerative Diseases
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has announced the appointment of Evgeny Nudler, PhD, to the 2013 class of HHMI Investigators.The appointment ranks as one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a biomedical research scientist. Dr. Nudler, the Julie Wilson Anderson Professor of Biochemistry in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at NYU Langone Medical Center, was selected among more than 1,200 applicants for his work on numerous biochemical frontiers, including the role of bacterial gases in antibiotic resistance and the interplay between RNA transcription and the cellular response to stress.
“The depth and breadth of Evgeny Nudler’s research is absolutely remarkable,” said Dafna Bar-Sagi, PhD, senior vice president and vice dean for science and chief scientific officer at NYU School of Medicine. “The five highly unique projects underway in his lab hold promise for a broad range of diseases, from cancer and heart disease to bacterial infections and Alzheimer’s. His versatility and range are invaluable, and his selection as an HMMI Investigator is richly deserved."
Most recently, Dr. Nudler and his colleagues have discovered how the roundworm exploits bacteria within its gut to harness the life-extending benefits of nitric oxide, a gas implicated in a wide range of physiological functions from blood pressure to immune response in mammals. This finding could help unravel the mysteries of human longevity, as our cells may employ a similar biochemical mechanism.
Bacteria cells also exploit nitric oxide for their own purposes, Dr. Nudler has found. In a discovery that sheds light on antibacterial resistance, his team has revealed how the dangerous bacterial species Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus anthracis manufacture nitric oxide and hydrogen sulfide to guard against oxidative stress and evade many different classes of antibiotics.
Among Dr. Nudler's other scientific contributions, his team was the first to discover bits of RNA present in all life forms that function as molecular circuits to control gene expression. These so-called "riboswitches” are now promising new targets for synthetic molecular switches and antimicrobial therapies. His lab has also developed a suite of biochemical tools to examine how RNA polymerase transcribes RNA from DNA. RNA polymerase is key enzyme of gene regulation and Nudler's work has explained how it moves along DNA, responds to regulatory signals and factors, and terminates transcription. Finally, Dr. Nudler’s lab has identified the key biochemical components that allow cells to cope with high temperature and other types of stress that jeopardize the integrity of proteins. A better understanding of these components could lead to therapies that help repair damaged proteins related to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
In addition to Dr. Nudler, distinguished NYU Langone Medical Center HHMI Investigators also include Iannis Aifantis, PhD, associate professor of pathology (Early Career Scientist, HHMI); Jeremy S. Dasen, PhD, assistant professor of physiology and neuroscience (Early Career Scientist, HHMI); Ruth Lehmann, PhD, the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Professor of Cell Biology, director of the Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Center for Biology and Medicine at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, director of the Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Center for Stem Biology and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Dan Littman, MD, PhD, the Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Professor of Molecular Immunology and professor of pathology and microbiology; Michele Pagano, MD, the May Ellen and Gerald Ritter Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pathology; and Danny Reinberg, PhD, professor of biochemistry.
HHMI, one of the largest philanthropies dedicated to the betterment of human health, offers its investigators the resources and freedom to explore their own lines of inquiry rather than rely on grants for predefined projects. In its mission to “extend the boundaries of knowledge” and inspire fundamental discoveries, HHMI seeks scientists such as Dr. Nudler who stand out for their creativity, innovative thinking and productivity.
Founded in 1953 by Howard R. Hughes, the aviator and industrialist, HHMI is recognized as a leader in biomedical research. Its current roster of HHMI Investigators includes 15 Nobel Laureates and more than 160 members of the National Academy of Sciences. A team of 330 scientists currently head Hughes laboratories at nearly 70 institutions nationwide, including NYU Langone Medical Center.