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Susan Lindquist

Susan Lindquist (born 5 June 1949) is a well-known molecular biologist studying (among other things) the biology of protein folding, heat-shock proteins, and prions. Lindquist is a member and former Director of the Whitehead Institute.


Lindquist's science

Lindquist is best known for her research that provided strong evidence for a new paradigm in genetics based upon the inheritance of proteins with new, self-perpetuating shapes rather than new DNA sequences. This research provided a biochemical framework for understanding other mysteries in biology, such as Alzheimer's disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. She is considered an expert in protein folding which, as explained by Lindquist in the following excerpt, is an ancient, fundamental problem in biology:

"What do "mad cows", people with neurodegenerative diseases, and an unusual type of inheritance in yeast have in common? They are all experiencing the consequences of misfolded proteins. ... In humans the consequences can be deadly, leading to such devastating illnesses as Alzheimer's Disease. In one case, the misfolded protein is not only deadly to the unfortunate individual in which it has appeared, but it can apparently be passed from one individual to another under special circumstances - producing infectious neurodegenerative diseases such as mad-cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease in humans."
--from "From Mad Cows to 'Psi-chotic' Yeast: A New Paradigm in Genetics," NAS Distinguished Leaders in Science Lecture Series, 10 November 1999.

Lindquist worked on the PSI+ element in yeast (a prion) and how it can act as a switch that hides or reveals numerous mutations throughout the genome, thus acting as an evolutionary capacitor. She also proposed that a heat shock protein, hsp90, may act in the same way, normally preventing phenotypic consequences of genetic changes, but showing all changes at once when the HSP system is overloaded.

Recently, Lindquist has made advances in nanotechnology, researching organic fibers capable of self-organizing into structures smaller than manufactured materials. Her group also developed a yeast “living test tube” model to study protein folding transitions in neurodegenerative diseases and to test therapeutic strategies through high-throughput screening. She is a co-founder of FoldRx, a company developing drug therapies for diseases of protein misfolding and amyloidosis.

In June 2006, Dr. Lindquist was the inaugural guest on the "Futures in Biotech" podcast on Leo Laporte's TWiT network.


Lindquist received her PhD in biology from Harvard in 1976, was the Albert D. Lasker Professor of Medical Sciences in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at the University of Chicago, and is now a professor of biology at MIT, an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

Lindquist is married to Edward Buckbee and has two daughters. The younger attends Northwestern University. The older is studying political science at George Washington University.

Significant Papers

  • Cooper AA, Gitler AD, Cashikar A, Haynes CM, Hill KJ, Bhullar B, Liu K, Xu K, Strathearn KE, Liu F, Cao S, Caldwell KA, Caldwell GA, Marsischky G, Kolodner RD, LaBaer J, Rochet J-C, Bonini NM and Lindquist S, 2006. alpha-Synuclein Blocks ER-Golgi Traffic and Rab1 Rescues Neuron Loss in Parkinson’s Models. "Science," v. 313, pp. 324-28.
  • Cowen LE and Lindquist SL, 2005. Hsp90 potentiates the rapid evolution of new traits: Drug resistance in diverse fungi. Science, v. 309, pp. 2185-89.
  • Krishnan R and Lindquist SL, 2005. Structural insights into a yeast prion illuminate nucleation and strain diversity. Nature, v. 435, pp. 765-72.
  • Queitsch C, Sangster TA and Lindquist S, 2002. Hsp90 as a capacitor of phenotypic variation. Nature, v.417, pp. 618-24.
  • Rutherford SL and Lindquist S, 1998. Hsp90 as a capacitor for morphological evolution. Nature, v.396, pp. 336-42.
  • Patino MM, Liu JJ, Glover JR and Lindquist S, 1996. Support for the prion hypothesis for inheritance of a phenotypic trait in yeast. Science, v. 273, pp. 622-26.


  • Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996.
  • Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1997.
  • Named a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology in 1997.
  • Named Albert D. Lasker Professor of Medical Sciences in 1999.
  • Received the Novartis/Drew Award in Biomedical Research in 2000.
  • Served as director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research from 2001-2004.
  • Received the Dickson Prize in Medicine in 2002.
  • Named one of the 50 most important women in science by Discover Magazine in 2002.
  • Awarded the Sigma Xi William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement in 2006.
  • Elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in 2006.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Susan_Lindquist". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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