Suzanne Pfeffer received the Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the University of California at San Francisco and carried out postdoctoral research there and at Stanford University before joining the Stanford faculty. She is a pioneer in the study of Rab GTPases as master regulators of membrane trafficking events. Her recent work has turned to study of Rab phosphorylation by pathogenic LRRK2 kinase and the consequences of this posttranslational modification for molecular interactions in the test tube, in cell culture and in the brain. She is a past President of the American Society for Cell Biology and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the recipient of numerous honors and awards.
About her talk: Rab GTPase phosphorylation and the molecular basis of inherited Parkinson’s disease
Pathogenic mutations in the Parkinson’s disease-associated LRRK2 kinase increase its activity and lead to phosphorylation of a subset of Rab GTPases that are master regulators of membrane traffic events. Rab phosphorylation flips a switch: Rabs bind new partners, triggering dominant consequences for cell physiology that include blocking primary cilia formation. In this lecture, I will present our latest molecular and cellular analysis of LRRK2 kinase, its corresponding PPM1H phosphatase, and how the coordinated action of these enzymes may lead to specific cell death in the Substantia nigra and eventually, Parkinson’s disease.