52nd Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research awarded to Erin Schuman and Christine Holt

The neuroscientists are honored for their pioneering work shedding light on the role of local protein synthesis in neuronal development and function

October 17, 2022

The 52nd Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research has been awarded to Erin Schuman, professor of neurobiology at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, and Christine Holt, professor of developmental neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. Their work has provided important insights about the way nerve cells are guided over long distances, from the eye to the brain, and how specific regions of nerve cells may change during learning and memory.

Schuman and Holt have developed imaginative cellular and molecular approaches to study how the translation of messenger RNA into protein can be localized to specific regions of a brain cell or “neuron”. Local translation is a fundamental process for the normal function of neurons, and has emerged as critical for understanding the etiology of many neurodevelopmental disorders, including Fragile X syndrome and some autism spectrum disorders. The synergistic, transformative efforts of these two investigators have not only established that local protein synthesis is a fundamental feature of neuronal function but also provide molecular answers to key questions about learning and memory in the brain. 

Schuman developed elegant tools for tracking and identifying newly synthesized proteins in young and mature dendrites. Her explorations of the detailed mechanisms of local protein synthesis have expanded our understanding of how very large neurons control their protein compositions throughout their extended processes.

Holt’s investigations of how connections are formed between neurons during development identified molecules in axons mediating their navigation from eye to brain. Her work revealed that changing subsets of mRNAs in axons are locally and dynamically translated to implement axon growth to their distant synaptic targets.

Schuman and Holt will present their Rosenstiel Award lectures at Brandeis University on April 24, 2023.

About the Rosenstiel Award
The Rosenstiel Award has had a distinguished record of identifying and honoring pioneering scientists who subsequently are honored with the Lasker and Nobel Prizes. Thirty-eight of 93 Rosenstiel Award winners have later won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology or in Chemistry. In 2021, Robert Singer was honored for his studies of the ways messenger RNAs are transcribed and transported to specific locations in the cytoplasm of cells, often far from the nucleus. In 2020, the Rosenstiel Award was the first of many prizes conferred on Katalin Karikó and Drew Weismann ’81, MA’81, P’15, for their pioneering work in the development of RNA vaccines.

A full list of awardees can be found on the Rosenstiel Award website.

Original text: Brandeis University Press.

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