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Nobel laureate Lefkowitz set for next Discovery Lecture

Mar. 24, 2016, 9:30 AM

Robert Lefkowitz, M.D., who shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his studies of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), will deliver the next Flexner Discovery Lecture on March 31.

Robert Lefkowitz, M.D.

Lefkowitz will discuss how recent developments are fundamentally changing the way GPCRs are thought to function and how they are regulated.

His lecture will begin at 4 p.m. in room 208 Light Hall. It is sponsored by the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics as the Earl W. Sutherland Lecture, named for Vanderbilt’s second Nobel laureate.

Making up a diverse family of approximately 1,000 known membrane proteins, GPCRs play critical roles in cell signaling and disease. About half of all drugs target GPCRs.

Lefkowitz, 72, earned his M.D. from Columbia University and joined the faculty at Duke University Medical Center in 1977, where he currently is the James B. Duke Professor of Medicine. He has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator since 1976.

Beginning in the late 1960s, Lefkowitz and his colleagues laid the groundwork for understanding how hormones such as adrenaline exert their effects on heart rate and blood pressure — by binding to GPCRs now known as beta-adrenergic receptors.

In the 1980s, Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka, M.D., with whom he shared the Nobel Prize, identified the gene for the beta-adrenergic receptor. Kobilka is now at Stanford University.

Several current and former Vanderbilt faculty members have collaborated with Lefkowitz and Kobilka, and others have carried on their work to understand, for example, the interactions of GPCRs with other proteins called beta-arrestins.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and former president of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, Lefkowitz also is a recipient of the National Medal of Science.

For a complete schedule of the Flexner Discovery Lecture series and archived video of previous lectures, go to

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