Anne Ephrussi#

Short laudatio by Margaret Buckingham#


Anne Ephrussi is best known for her work on cytoplasmic cell fate determinants, in the early embryo. As a postdoctoral scientist with Ruth Lehmann at M.I.T., she cloned and characterized the Drosophila gene oskar and discovered that it encodes an mRNA that, during oogenesis, becomes specifically localised at the posterior pole of the oocyte and embryo. In key experiments, she showed that ectopic expression of oskar in the embryo is sufficient to induce germ cell and abdomen formation at that site. She went on, in her own laboratory, to show how oskar mRNA localisation depends on microtubules and the actin cytoskeleton which interact with regulatory proteins that form a complex with the mRNA. More recently her laboratory has characterized the entire assembly pathway. Localisation of mRNA is mechanistically coupled to translational control, ensuring that the protein is only expressed once the mRNA is localised. Amie Ephrussi made an important contribution to establishing this basic concept. Her laboratory dissected the molecular requirements for oskar mRNA localisation-dependent translation. This led to the definition of "Silencing particles". Underlying mRNA localisation is a polarised cytoskeleton and the Ephrussi laboratory demonstrated that the establishment and maintenance of cell polarity involves a conserved Serine-Threonine kinase that also protects Oskar protein from degradation.

It is now recognised that mRNA localisation is a powerful and highly conserved mechanism for spatial and temporal control of gene expression. Most of our knowledge of mRNA localisation has come from studies of a few Drosophila mRNAs such as oskar, which play a critical role in generating the functional asymmetries that specify the embryonic axes at the onset of development. The important underlying role of localised expression of cell determinants continues to be the focus of Anne Ephrussi's research.

In addition to her internationally renowned scientific contributions, Anne Ephrussi has played an important role in running the EMBL International PhD programme and now directs the EMBL International Center for Advanced Training which co-ordinates activities of the EMBL PhD and Postdoctoral Programmes, Courses and Conferences, as well as all advanced scientific training activities at EMBL, all of which benefit the European scientific community.

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