A. Catharine Ross

The Pennsylvania State University

Primary Section: 61, Animal, Nutritional, and Applied Microbial Sciences
Secondary Section: 42, Medical Physiology and Metabolism
Membership Type: Member (elected 2003)


Catharine Ross is Professor and Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair in Nutritional Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. She is a nutritional biochemist recognized for her work on lipid metabolism, especially the metabolism and regulation of vitamin A, its effects on immune responses, and whole-body retinol kinetic analyses. Dr. Ross was born in Santa Monica CA, and grew up in Napa, Ca, attending the University of California at Davis before moving east for graduate studies at Cornell University in nutritional sciences and biochemistry, and postdoctoral studies at Columbia University in Nutrition and Metabolism. She was Assistant, Associate and Professor at the Medical College of Pennsylvania before moving to her current position at Penn State in 1994. She has served on three NIH study sections (two as chair), on the Board of Scientific Councilors of NIDDK, and on five consensus report committees for the IOM/NASEM. She has served on Council and as an officer of the American Society for Nutrition. 

Research Interests

As a nutritional biochemist, I have studied cellular factors involved in the biosynthesis and transport of vitamin A molecules, focusing on the interaction of cellular retinoid-binding proteins and enzymes that esterify retinol for transport, storage, and oxidation. Our intent has been to link biochemical findings with nutritional studies to better understand how vitamin A homeostasis is regulated by dietary status and metabolic conditions, including lactation. We began by characterizing the retinyl ester pattern of milk and identifying an enzyme in the lacatating mammary gland capable of forming retinyl esters. While we found this enzyme, ARAT, in other tissues, further studies identified an acyltransferase, LRAT, and its interaction with cellular retinol-binding protein as being important for hepatic retinol esterification and storage in liver and lung. In these organs, LRAT is regulated in a graded manner, at the mRNA level, by vitamin A at levels resembling those in human diets. We also have studied the functional outcomes of vitamin A status on the immune system, demonstrating that the requirement for vitamin A is conditional, and showing synergism between vitamin A and immune stimuli in enhancing antibody production. These results suggest strategies for improving antibody responses in neonates, which generally are low.

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