Vicki Lundblad is a molecular geneticist who has focused on the biology of telomere replication in budding yeast. Her work has provided multiple insights into how the enzyme telomerase, which elongates chromosome ends, is regulated in vivo. Lundblad, who is a third-generation Californian, was born in the Bay Area as the daughter of a biochemist and a school teacher. Her undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley initially focused on mathematics but she switched to biology, which led her to pursue her Ph.D. at Harvard University as Nancy Kleckner’s first graduate student. Her interest in telomere biology initiated with her postdoctoral research in Jack Szostak’s lab in the early 1980?s, followed by a second postdoctoral stint in Elizabeth Blackburn’s lab. Lundblad became a faculty member of the Genetics department at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX in 1991, and subsequently moved to the Salk Institute of Biological Studies in 2004.

Research Interests

Vicki Lundblad's long-term research interest has been directed at elucidating the mechanisms required for telomere function. This initiated with her discovery that a defect in telomere replication in budding yeast leads to replicative senescence, well before telomere attrition was shown to be the causative factor for senescence in mammalian cells. She subsequently showed that this block to cellular proliferation could nevertheless be bypassed, through a recombination-based pathway that provides an alternative means of replenishing chromosome ends in the absence of telomerase. These mechanistic observations were conducted in parallel with the discovery of the protein subunits of the telomerase holoenzyme, also in budding yeast. Analysis of the Est1 telomerase subunit has revealed that telomerase is actively recruited to chromosome ends, through an interaction between Est1 and a telomere-bound protein called Cdc13. Furthermore, her work, in collaboration with Dr. Thomas Cech, led to the long-awaited discovery of the catalytic subunit of telomerase. In parallel, her group has shown that telomere homeostasis also relies on a telomere-dedicated RPA-like (t-RPA) complex, thereby demonstrating that multiple RPA complexes make distinct contributions to genomic stability.

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Primary Section

Section 26: Genetics

Secondary Section

Section 41: Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology