Vol 10. Issue 30 / October 11, 2010

Sathyanarayanan Puthanveettil Appointed to Scripps Research Faculty

By Eric Sauter

The Scripps Research Institute has appointed Sathyanarayanan Puthanveettil as an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience. Puthanveettil was an associate research scientist at Columbia University before joining Scripps Florida in September.

"Sathya is an outstanding addition to the Scripps Florida faculty and to our department," said Ron Davis, the chair of the Department of Neuroscience. "His studies in the transport mechanisms involved in memory and learning have been innovative and complement the work of many of us in the department. His work also opens a new research window on potential treatments for a broad range of neurological disorders. We're glad he chose to continue his research at Scripps Florida."

"I'm honored to join the Scripps Florida faculty and the neuroscience department," said Puthanveettil. "Ron Davis has been wonderfully supportive. In fact, the entire staff of Scripps Florida is one of the best and most professional I've ever encountered. Getting a new laboratory up and running is a complicated job but they've helped smooth the transition tremendously. I'm looking forward to collaborating with the scientists here and simply enjoying being in Florida."

Puthanveettil and his family live in Jupiter. His wife, Bindu Raveendra recently joined the Scripps Research Department of Chemistry as a staff scientist.

Puthanveettil's research is focused on the molecular mechanisms underlying synapse specific long-term memory storage, in particular the cellular transport of various gene products such as proteins and RNAs in the brain. His research combines genomics and proteomics with electrophysiology and behavior.

Puthanveettil, who is 40, received a bachelor's degree from Kerala Agricultural University (India) and his master's degree in biotechnology from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (India). In 2001, he was awarded a Ph.D. from Washington State University. He completed postdoctoral work in the laboratory of Nobel laureate Eric Kandel at Columbia University in New York.

In 2003, Puthanveettil received The National Neurofibromatosis Foundation and International Neurofibromatosis Research Foundation Prize for innovative research ideas. In 2009, the Society for Neuroscience recognized his work on transported RNAs as a Hot Topic issue.

Identifying New Molecules

The unmasking of the human genome has opened up new questions concerning the genomic issues involved in the creation and storage of long-term memory. In a 2008 study published in the journal Cell, Puthanveettil showed for the first time that the induction of long-term facilitation – the long-term enhancement of communication between neurons and the cellular basis of memory and learning – requires an upregulation or increase in kinesin heavy chain, a member of a family of motor proteins that are involved in a number of important cell processes including mitosis and meiosis, cell division that results in reproductive cells.

"We focused on the kinesin family of motor proteins because they are known to be involved in the routine transport of various gene products from the cell body to the synapse," he said. "Our study showed that it was the upregulation of this transport mechanism that can actually jump start the process. The next step is to clearly identify the various molecules that are actually transported."

From that point, he said, you can begin to understand the basic pathology of various neurological disorders.

"This transport system is one of the components affected in these diseases," he said. "For example, in the case of Huntington's disease, kinesin is responsible for transport of molecules that play a role in the disease – now we have to look at how transport of these molecules are modified during the disease's development. Likewise for Alzheimer's disease – if you can find a way to manipulate the transport system, you may be able to overcome some of the defects involved in the disease's pathology."





Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu



"I'm looking forward to collaborating with the scientists here and simply enjoying being in Florida," says Assistant Professor Sathyanarayanan Puthanveettil. (Photo by Eric Haselton).