Elizabeth Vierling, PhD is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Vierling earned a BS in Botany from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a MS and PhD from the University of Chicago in Biology. In 1985, after postdoctoral training in molecular biology at the University of Georgia with Joe L. Key, Vierling started an independent career and advanced to Regents’ Professor in Biochemistry at the University of Arizona in Tucson Arizona. Vierling moved to the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2011. In 2008-2010 Vierling served as a rotating Program Officer in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the National Science Foundation. Honors and awards include: Fellow of the American Society of Plant Biologists, Distinguished Graduate of Riverdell High School, Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Fellow, Fellow of the American Society for the Advancement of Science, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellow, NSF/JSPS Short Term Invitation Fellowship for Research In Japan, and American Cancer Society Faculty Research Award.

Research Interests

Dr. Vierling’s research interests focus on posttranslational processes influencing plant responses to the environment, in particular high temperature, and extend from protein biochemistry through molecular and classical genetics. A major focus has been on the small heat shock proteins, molecular chaperones in the cytosol and plant organelles. The lab’s structural and biochemical studies led to the current model for the chaperone mechanism of small heat shock protein function in all organisms, including humans. Genetic analysis identified mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana unable to acclimate to high temperatures, establishing the protein disaggregase HSP101 as required for heat acclimation in plants. Further mutant analysis has shown that S-nitrosoglutathione reductase is critical for nitric oxide homeostasis and heat tolerance, as well as demonstrating that control of reactive oxygen species and recovery of translation are essential components of heat tolerance. Building on these genetic studies, current focus is on how nitric oxide impacts plant fertility and how mitochondrial function is linked to the rest of the cell through conserved ATAD3 proteins.

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Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 21: Biochemistry