Carol W. Greider

Carolyn Widney Greider
Greider in 2014
Born (1961-04-15) April 15, 1961
San Diego, California, U.S.
Residence Davis, California
Santa Barbara, California
Berkeley, California
Baltimore, Maryland
Nationality American
Education University of California, Santa Barbara (B.A. 1983)
University of California, Berkeley (Ph.D. 1987)
Known for Discovery of telomerase
Nathaniel C. Comfort
(m. 1993; div. 2011)
Children 2
Awards Richard Lounsbery Award (2003)
Lasker Award (2006)
Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize (2007)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2009)
Scientific career
Fields Molecular biology
Institutions Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Thesis Identification of a specific telomere terminal transferase activity in Tetrahymena extracts (1985)
Doctoral advisor Elizabeth Blackburn
Other academic advisors Beatrice M. Sweeney
David J. Asai
Leslie Wilson

Carolyn Widney "Carol" Greider (born April 15, 1961) is an American molecular biologist. She is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Daniel Nathans Professor, and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Johns Hopkins University.[1] She discovered the enzyme telomerase in 1984, while she was a graduate student of Elizabeth Blackburn at the University of California, Berkeley. Greider pioneered research on the structure of telomeres, the ends of the chromosomes. She was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Blackburn and Jack W. Szostak, for their discovery that telomeres are protected from progressive shortening by the enzyme telomerase.[2]

Early life and education

Greider was born in San Diego, California.[3] Her father, Kenneth Greider, was a physics professor.[4] Her family moved from San Diego to Davis, California, where she spent many of her early years and graduated from Davis Senior High School in 1979. She graduated from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a B.A. in biology in 1983. During this time she also studied at the University of Göttingen and made significant discoveries there.[5]

Greider is dyslexic and states that her "compensatory skills also played a role in my success as a scientist because one has to intuit many different things that are going on at the same time and apply those to a particular problem"[6] Greider initially suspected her dyslexia after seeing patterns of common mistakes such as backwards words when she received back graded work in the first grade.[7] Greider started to memorize words and their spellings rather than attempting to sound out the spelling of words.[6] Greider has worked significantly to overcome her dyslexia to become successful in her professional life, and credits her dyslexia as helping her appreciate differences and making unusual decisions such as the one to work with Tetrahymena, an unusual organism.[6]

Greider initially had difficulty getting in to graduate school due to low GRE scores as a result of her dyslexia. U.C. Berkeley’s graduate school admission office was able to focus on Greider’s impressive experience and credentials and accepted her.[6] Greider applied to thirteen grad schools and was only accepted to two, Caltech and U.C. Berkeley.[6] She chose the University of California, Berkeley where she would be able to work with Elizabeth Blackburn and the two made their telomerase discovery.[6]

Discovery of telomerase

She completed her Ph.D. in molecular biology in 1987 at the University of California, Berkeley, under Elizabeth Blackburn. While at UC Berkeley, Greider co-discovered telomerase, a key enzyme in cancer and anemia research, along with Blackburn.

Greider joined Blackburn's laboratory in April 1984 looking for the enzyme that was hypothesized to add extra DNA bases to the ends of chromosomes. Without the extra bases, which are added as repeats of a six base pair motif, chromosomes are shortened during DNA replication, eventually resulting in chromosome deterioration and senescence or cancer-causing chromosome fusion. Blackburn and Greider looked for the enzyme in the model organism Tetrahymena thermophila, a fresh-water protozoan with a large number of telomeres.[8]

On December 25, 1984, Greider first obtained results indicating that a particular enzyme was likely responsible. After six months of additional research Greider and Blackburn concluded that it was the enzyme responsible for telomere addition. They published their findings in the journal Cell in December, 1985.[9] The enzyme, originally called "telomere terminal transferase," is now known as telomerase. Telomerase rebuilds the tips of chromosomes and determines the life span of cells.[10]

Greider's additional research to confirm her discovery was largely focused in identifying the mechanism that telomerase uses for elongation.[11] Greider chose to use RNA degrading enzymes and saw that the telomeres stopped extending, which was an indication that RNA was involved in the enzyme.[11] Greider also used telomerase deficient mice and saw that her sixth generation of mice had become entirely sterile, she mated them with control mice and the telomerase deficient mice were able to regenerate their telomeres.[11]

Subsequent career

Greider then completed her postdoctoral work, and also held a faculty position, at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Long Island, New York. During this time, Greider, in collaboration with Ronald A. DePinho, produced the first telomerase knockout mouse, showing that although telomerase is dispensable for life, increasingly short telomeres result in various deleterious phenotypes, colloquially referred to as premature aging. In the mid-1990s, Greider was recruited by Michael D. West, founder of biotechnology company Geron (now CEO of BioTime) to join the company's Scientific Advisory Board.[12]

Greider, Blackburn and Jack Szostak, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, shared the 2006 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for their work on telomeres.[13]

In February 2014, Greider was named a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University.[14]

Greider currently serves as director of and professor at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Johns Hopkins Medicine.[10] Greider was first promoted to Daniel Nathans Professor at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics in 2004.[15] Greider's lab employs both student and post-doctoral trainees[16] in order to further examine the relationships between the biology of telomeres and their connection to disease.[15] Greider's lab uses a variety of tools including yeast, mice, and biochemistry in order to look at progressive telomere shortening.[17] Greider's lab is also researching how tumor reformation can be controlled by the presence of short telomeres.[17] The lab's future work will focus more on identifying the processing and regulation of telomeres and telomere elongation.[17]

Personal life

Greider married Nathaniel C. Comfort, a fellow academic, in 1992. She has two children. Greider is divorced.[18] Before Greider's children were born, she competed in triathlons. She still bikes, runs, and swims for fitness.[10]

Awards and honors

Selected works

  • Greider, C. W. & Blackburn, E. H. (1985). "Identification of a specific telomere terminal transferase activity in Tetrahymena extracts". Cell. 43 (2 Pt. 1): 405–413. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(85)90170-9. PMID 3907856. 
  • Greider, C. W. & Blackburn, E. H. (1996). "Telomeres, Telomerase and Cancer". Scientific American: 92–97. 

See also


  1. "Carol Greider". Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved June 9, 2011.
  2. "Blackburn, Greider, and Szostak share Nobel". Dolan DNA Learning Center. Archived from the original on 2009-10-22. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  3. Hopkins “Telomere” expert Carol Greider shares Germany's largest science prize
  4. "Former Davis resident receives Nobel Prize". The California Aggie. 2009-10-12. Retrieved 2015-04-07.
  5. Press release, University of Göttingen (9 December 2009). (German)
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Kathy Crockett. "Carol Greider, Scientist, Nobel Prize Winner * The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity". Yale University. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  7. "Carol W. Greider - Biographical". Retrieved 2017-09-28.
  8. Nuzzo, R. (2005). "Biography of Carol W. Greider". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 102 (23): 8077–8079. Bibcode:2005PNAS..102.8077N. doi:10.1073/pnas.0503019102. PMC 1149435. PMID 15928079.
  9. Greider, C. W.; Blackburn, E. H. (1985). "Identification of a specific telomere terminal transferase activity in Tetrahymena extracts". Cell. 43 (2 Pt 1): 405–413. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(85)90170-9. PMID 3907856.
  10. 1 2 3 "Carol Greider, Ph.D." Johns Hopkins Medicine - Research - Awards - Nobel. Retrieved 2015-04-07.
  11. 1 2 3 "Science Spotlight: Nobel Laureate Carol Greider". University Wire. March 18, 2015.
  12. "Geron Corporation 10K 1996".
  13. ""Telomere" Expert Carol Greider Shares 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine". Johns Hopkins University. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  14. Brooks, Kelly (February 17, 2014). "With Bloomberg Distinguished Professorships, Johns Hopkins aims to foster cross-specialty collaboration". Hub. Johns Hopkins University. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  15. 1 2 "The Women of Hopkins". The Women of Hopkins. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  16. Paletta, Thomas M. Burton and Damian (2013-03-02). "NIH Cuts Began Ahead of Sequester". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2017-10-05.
  17. 1 2 3 "The Greider Lab | Johns Hopkins Medicine". Retrieved 2017-10-06.
  18. Clint Talbott. "'Having it all' plus 'doing it all'". Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  19. "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 9, 2011.
  20. "Greider, Carol W". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved June 9, 2011.
  21. NAS Online ("For her pioneering biochemical and genetic studies of telomerase, the enzyme that maintains the ends of chromosomes in eukaryotic cells.")
  22. "Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  23. "IOM Class of 2010". Institute of Medicine. Retrieved June 9, 2011.
  24. "Carson, Hopkins Colleagues Named to Institute of Medicine". October 11, 2010.

Further reading

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