News Release: Research, University News

Dec. 19,  2008

AAAS Selects Three Emory University Scientists as 2008 Fellows

From Woodruff Health Sciences Center News

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has awarded the distinction of Fellow to Emory University faculty scientists Jocelyne Bachevalier, Dale E. Edmondson and Barry D. Shur. Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

This year AAAS awarded 486 members this honor because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. New Fellows will be recognized on Saturday, Feb. 14 at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago.

This year’s AAAS Fellows are announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the Dec. 19 edition of the journal Science.

Jocelyne Bachevalier, PhD, a renowned behavioral and cognitive neuroscientist, was honored for her "exemplary work on the role of specific brain structures in the regulation of social and cognitive behaviors in humans and in animal models." Bachevalier is Samuel Candler Dobbs professor of developmental cognitive neuroscience and a faculty member in Emory's Department of Psychology and Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

Bachevalier's research has focused mainly on studies of the neural substrates underlying the development, maturation and decline of learning and memory functions, and the regulation of socioemotional behaviors in nonhuman primates. One aspect of her research involves working to determine the structural or functional brain immaturity responsible for infantile amnesia (the inability to remember virtually anything from infancy).

Her lab also studies the nature of the memory decline in monkeys that accompanies normal aging to help explain aging-related memory disorders. An important facet of her scientific work has been her persistent effort to relate her basic research findings to normal and abnormal human behavior, such as autism and schizophrenia, and the development of memory processes.

Dale E. Edmondson, PhD, was honored for his "distinguished contributions to the field of physical biochemistry, particularly research that furthers our understanding of structures and mechanisms of flavins and flavoproteins." Edmondson is professor of biochemistry in Emory University School of Medicine and Emory adjunct professor of chemistry.

Edmondson is now beginning his 29th year as a member of Emory’s faculty. His research focuses on the structure-function relationships in enzymes catalyzing oxidation-reduction enzymes, including the flavoenzymes. These include structures of covalent vitamin B2, monoamine oxidases A and B (MAO A and MAO B), and the molybdenum hydroxylases (santhine dehydrogenase). The monoamine oxidases are important targets in the development of drug therapies such as antidepressants and neuroprotectants.

In a paper in Nature Structural Biology in 2002, Edmondson reported on the discovery, along with colleagues at the University of Pavia, Italy, of the three-dimensional structure of human MAO B, an enzyme important in age-related neurological disorders.  He and his Pavia colleagues subsequently determined the structure of human MAO A, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2005. These discoveries are considered to be major advances in our understanding of these target enzymes, which continue to be the subject of numerous studies aimed at developing new drugs for treatment of and protection from neurological diseases.

Barry D. Shur, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Cell Biology in Emory University School of Medicine, was honored for his "pioneering work on adhesion interactions in fertilization and early development with a focus on the role of cell surface glycosyltransferases."

A leading researcher in the field of molecular cell and developmental biology, Shur has been credited with opening up an entire new area of research with his work in the biology of adhesion and cell surface interactions. His research focuses particularly on the molecular basis of cellular interactions during mammalian fertilization and development. He and his colleagues identified a receptor on the sperm surface called galactosyltransferase that allows the sperm to bind to the egg coat and fertilize the egg.

His laboratory's subsequent discovery that sperm-egg binding requires two distinct interactions between cellular receptors and their target proteins (ligands) represents a major advancement in the understanding of mammalian fertilization. In this regard, he has recently identified two novel gamete adhesion proteins, one that is secreted by the male reproductive tract and coats sperm, and another that is secreted by the oviduct and coats the newly ovulated egg. He is continuing to work on the mode of action of these newly identified gamete receptors, as well as the general function of protein-carbohydrate interactions during early embryonic development.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science (www.sciencemag.org). AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more.

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