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Dr. Elizabeth Sztul

University of Alabama at Birmingham
1918 University Blvd, Birmingham, AL 35294

Brief Biography:

Dr. Elizabeth Sztul, Professor of Cell Biology obtained a M.Sc. (1979) in Plant Physiology from University of Maryland, studying chloroplast biogenesis. She continued her graduate studies in Cell Biology at Yale University School of Medicine, working on membrane trafficking pathways in the laboratory of Nobel Prize winner, Dr. George Palade, and was awarded a Ph.D in 1984. She continued training as a Postdoctoral Fellow of the American Cancer Society (1985-1989) in Human Genetics at Yale University School of Medicine, working on mitochondrial biogenesis in the laboratory of Dr. Leon Rosenberg. During her postdoctoral work at Yale, she was also a Visiting Scientist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, in the laboratory of Dr. Kathryn Howell. She was appointed Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University (1989-1995), where she received the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award. Dr. Sztul joined the faculty in the Department of Cell Biology at UAB as an Associate Professor in 1995 and was promoted to full professor in 2003. She is a member of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Fleming Cystic Fibrosis Center and the Civitan Center. She spent a sabbatical year (2000-01) at the Wellcome Center for Human Genetics in Oxford, United Kingdom. She was selected to act as Program Director in the Division of Cell and Molecular Biology at the National Science Foundation (2008-2009). At the national level she has served or serves on Scientific Advisory Panels for the National Institute of Health, American Cancer Society, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association. She also has served or serves on Scientific Advisory panels for The Human Frontiers Scientific Program, United States - Israel Binational Science Foundation, The Wellcome Trust, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.


Academic positions:

Professional Experience:

1977-1979: Graduate Assistant, Dept. of Botany and Plant Physiology, University of MD

Advisor: Dr. Glenn Patterson

1979-1984: Graduate Fellow, Dept. of Cell Biology, Yale University School of Medicine

Advisor:  Dr. George Palade, Nobel Prize winner

1984-1988: Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept. Human Genetics, Yale University School of Medicine

Advisor:  Dr. Leon Rosenberg

1981-1988: Visiting Scientist (intermittent), European Molecular Biology Laboratory

Heidelberg, Germany

Advisor:  Dr. Kathryn Howell

1988-1989: Research Scientist, Dept. of Cell Biology, Yale University School of Medicine

Advisor:  Dr. George Palade, Nobel Prize winner

1989-1995: Assistant Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biology, Princeton University

1995-2003: Associate Professor, Dept. of Cell Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham

2000-2001: Visiting Professor, Wellcome Trust Center for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, UK

2003-present: Professor, Dept. of Cell Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham

2008-2009: Program Director, Division of Molecular and Cell Biosciences, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA.


Research interests:

Research Interests:
Molecular regulation of membrane traffic
Cross-talk between exocytic traffic, ER quality control and proteosomal degradation
Cellular toxicity caused by aggregation of misfolded proteins

The mechanism of protein degradation is fundamental to our understanding of membrane traffic. Its medical relevance arises from the range of human diseases caused by the failed delivery of a specific protein to its appropriate site or the premature degradation of a critical cellular component. Cystic fibrosis, for example, results from the failure of the delivery of the receptor (CTFR) to the cell surface. Certain cancers result from the rapid degradation of the Ptc (patched) receptor.

A major aim of our work is the understanding of the control of intracellular membrane traffic. We seek to understand how cells mediate the transport of crucial proteins to their correct site? In eukaryotic cells, secreted and cell surface proteins are transported from the site of synthesis in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), through the Intermediate Compartment (IC) and the Golgi complex to the cell surface or to the endosomal/lysosomal system. We are developing a “virtual” time and space map of all of the molecular events that occur during this transport. We have cloned several proteins that are required fro transport and are using biochemical, immunological, morphological, genetic, and molecular methods to define their exact function. A detailed understanding of protein traffic at the molecular level would enable the development of disease-specific therapies that target the deficient steps in protein transport.

The control of protein degradation is a complementary area of focus within our group. Chaperones catalyze the correct folding of newly synthesized proteins in the ER. Incorrect or inefficient folding leads to the scavenging of the protein by the ER quality control system and its elimination by proteasomal degradation. We have developed an in vivo system, using the genetically tractable yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to analyze this process. The allowed the identification of a multi-component sorting machinery in yeast that sequesters misfolded proteins in ER subdomains prior to their degradation. We are seeking to identify a similar system in mammalian cells. This project should lead to development of technology that will selectively slow the degradative sorting of clinically relevant proteins.


Any other information:

Editorial Boards:

Editorial Board of American Journal of Physiology: Cell Biology (2005-present)

Editorial Board of the Open Cell Development and Biology Journal (2007-2012)

Editorial Board of Journal of Biological Chemistry (2012-2015)

Editorial Board of Cellular Logistics (2010-2015)


Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) 09/90-09/96

Elected to the Executive Committee of the UAB Commission on the Status of Women, 01/05-01/08

Program Director for the Cellular Program of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, the National Science Foundation 04/08-04/09

Elected to the Council of the American Society of Cell Biology (ASCB), 01/09- 01/12

Profiled in ASCB Newsletter May 2009:17-19

Selected to the Review Committee for the International Human Frontier Science Program, Strasbourg, France (09/10-09/13)

Selected to the Executive Review Panel, Human Frontiers Scientific Programme, Strasbourg, France (1/22-1/26/11)


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