Vol 10. Issue 24 / August 16, 2010

Noted Biochemist Joins Department of Cancer Biology

The Scripps Research Institute has appointed Katrin Karbstein as an assistant professor in the Department of Cancer Biology. Karbstein was an assistant professor of chemistry and biological chemistry at the University of Michigan before joining the Scripps Florida faculty in July.

"Katrin is a distinguished addition to our department and to the Scripps Research faculty," said John Cleveland, chair of the Department of Cancer Biology. "By combining genetics with state-of-the-art biochemistry, Katrin has greatly expand our understanding of how the ribosome is assembled and, equally important, how assembly is regulated. The enzymes involved in this process represent unexploited targets for cancer therapy. We are delighted to have her as part of the Scripps Research team."

"I'm honored to be joining the Scripps Florida faculty," Karbstein said. "It is an exciting new facility that offers great opportunities. I look forward to focusing exclusively on my research and completing several ongoing projects before delving into new collaborations at Scripps. Right now I'm busy building our lab and taking advantage of southern Florida. It's a great place to live and work."

Karbstein, who is 36, lives in Jupiter.

Her research uses a number of different approaches – everything from biochemistry to protein engineering – to study ribosome assembly at the molecular level. Ribosomes, large macromolecular machines that are required for cell growth of all organisms, translate RNA into proteins within cells. The ultimate goal of the Karbstein laboratory is to define the mechanisms that direct the assembly of large RNA-protein complexes, with implications not only for the ribosome but also for the signal recognition particle, a protein-RNA complex involved in recognition of proteins as they exit the ribosome.

Karbstein, who was born in the Ruhr region of Germany, received her Diplom Biochemistry from the University of Witten in Herdecke, Germany. She earned her Ph.D. from Stanford University and conducted postdoctoral studies at the University of California (UC), Berkeley. While at UC Berkeley, she was a Damon Runyon Fellow. In 2006, she was recognized with a University of Michigan Biological Scholar award. In 2009, she received a prestigious National Science Foundation Career award for her work.

While at the University of Michigan, Karbstein uncovered a novel mechanism that helps ensure proper assembly of specific ribosomal subunits, a kind of quality control pathway for the entire process. In a 2009 article published in the journal RNA, Karbstein described the regulatory roles various assembly factors play in constructing ribosomes, specifically energy releasing enzymes.

"Understanding these enzymes – almost 200 proteins and several RNA co-factors are involved in ribosome assembly – is a potentially fruitful area because of the importance of ribosome assembly for cell growth," she said. "The link between defects in ribosome assembly and cancer clearly points to this pathway as a new target for anti-cancer drugs. This is an area we expect to look into, but first we need to better understand the process."





Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu



"I look forward to focusing exclusively on my research and completing several ongoing projects before delving into new collaborations at Scripps," says Assistant Professor Katrin Karbstein. (Photo by James McEntee.)