Q&A: The molecular locksmith

National Medal of Science laureate Robert Lefkowitz was one of the first to show that receptors were real protein structures

Megan Scudellari
Sep 8, 2008
Robert Lefkowitz, Duke University biochemist and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator, believes that serendipity is one of science's greatest allies. It has certainly smiled on this professor of medicine, who will receive the National Medal of Science in three weeks for his work in isolating, defining, and characterizing G-protein-coupled receptors and their related signaling pathways.Lefkowitz has spent more than 35 years studying adrenergic receptors, a class of GPCRs targeted by compounds like epinephrine and norepinephrine, and has published more than 800 papers on receptors and cell signaling. Today, GPCRs are the most common target of therapeutic drugs, including psychoactive drugs, antihistamines, opioids, and others. On the eve his national award, Lefkowitz took some time to discuss the past, present, and future of cell receptor biology with The Scientist.Robert Lefkowitz: One of the interests I had early on was to show that there actually was such a...

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