Hageman Distinguished Lecturer in Agricultural Biochemistry

Catharine Ross

Dr. Catharine Ross

Department of Nutritional Sciences
Pennsylvania State University, University Park
Member, National Academy of Sciences

November 8-9, 2006

Lecture: "Regulating a key regulator of differentiation – how is the production and metabolism of retinoic acid controlled?"

Colloquium: "Vitamin A status – why it still matters"

About the speaker

Did a parent ever tell you to eat your carrots? Did you ever wonder why? If so, now you can get three good answers. Catharine Ross, this year's Hageman lecturer, is a nutritional biochemist who has spent over 20 years finding one of most exciting of those answers. Her work during the 1980s indicated that vitamin A was important for immune function. More recent studies have identified specific control mechanisms such as modulation of B cell population dynamics by retinoic acid, the cellular active metabolite of vitamin A. Retinoic acid, combined with polyI:C, can be used as a adjuvant in antibody production. Retinoic acid may also be protective of neonatal lungs against hyperoxic damage and have anti-cancer functions. And of course vision is dependent on vitamin A derived molecules.

Professor A. Catharine Ross is currently in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. Prior to 1994 she was at the Medical College of Pennsylvania in the Departments of Biochemistry and Pediatrics (Nutrition). At that institution she also served as Director of the Division of Nutrition and for graduate training in biochemistry. She received her B.S. in Zoology from the University of California at Davis, a Master's degree in Nutritional Science and a PhD in Biochemistry from Cornell. Her work with vitamin A began during her PhD studies of chylomicrons and continued while she was a post-doctoral reseracher at Columbia University. Along the way to her present prominent position and membership in the National Academy of Sciences (2003) she has identified acylCoA: retinol acyl transferase and lecithin:retinol acyl transferase as key enzymes for movement and storage of retinol. Some of her recent work has also included proteomics studies of enzymes regulated by vitamin A as well as detailed studies of mechanisms whereby retinoic acid regulates function and localization of proteins. This year's lecture will deal with what regulates the regulator – retinoic acid.

Professor Ross has been recipient of numerous awards including the Mead-Johnson and the Osborn and Mendel (basic research) awards of the American Society for Nutritional Sciences, and a Research Career Development Award from the NIH. She has been active an associate editor for several journals and books, and is now Editor, Journal of Nutrition. In addition to the usual duties as a reviewer and panel member for national agencies, she has been involved in several special groups that prepared reports or papers on vitamin A and immunity, vitamin A and cancer, impact of vitamin A supplements on child mortality. The colloquium will focus on the broader issue of why you still need to eat your carrots; vitamin A status does matter.