1995 Award Winner Professor Dr. Stephen P. Jackson Wellcome/CRC Institute, University of Cambridge, England
The work of Professor Jackson
Much of Professor Jackson's research has focused on how proteins of the transcription machinery work at the molecular level and how gene transcription is regulated. For example, he has made the surprising discovery that many transcription factors are glycosylated. Furthermore, his laboratory has shown that an important mechanism for controlling transcrip-tion during the cell cycle is the regulation of transcription factor TFIIIB, which consists of the TATA-binding protein and several proteins called TAFs. Other major achievements in this area include work revealing fundamental similarities between the three transcription systems of eukaryotes, and the discovery that transcription in a group of organisms called archaebacteria is very similar to that in human cells.Recently, Professor Jackson has directed most of his efforts on studies of the enzyme called DNA-dependent protein kinase(DNA-PK). For example, he has utilized the combination of biochemistry and molecular biology to show that DNA-PK is able to phosphorylate many proteins that bind DNA, including transcription factors Sp1, c-Jun, and p53. Furthermore, he has demonstrated that DNA-PK is essential for the development of the immune system - being required for the process of V(D)J recombination that generates the genes for T-cell receptor proteins and antibodies.Moreover, he has discovered that DNA-PK recognizes DNA damage that is caused by agents such as ionizing radiation. Thus, cells or animals defective in DNA-PK are hypersensitive to the killing effects of DNA damaging agents. Unrepaired DNA damage can kill cells, or can lead to diseases such as cancer through the generation of mutations or through causing the loss important genetic material. Since ionizing radiation is involved in both the generation and treatment of cancers, Professor Jackson's future work on DNA-PK may have considerable medical importance. Consistent with this prediction, Professor Jackson's laboratory has recently cloned the gene for the catalytic subunit of DNA-PK and has shown that it is related to a protein called ATM,which, when mutated,predisposes humans to cancer. Much of Professor Jackson's future work will be directed towards trying to understand how DNA-PK, ATM and other related proteins function.