Endocrine Abstracts (2001) 2

Society for Endocrinology Medal Lecturer

Björn Vennström, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden Abstract

Björn Vennström obtained his PhD at Uppsala University in 1978. He then spent two years in Dr Michael Bishop's laboratory at UCSF, characterising the erbA and erbB proto-oncogenes. Back in Uppsala he showed that the v-erbB oncogene of the Avian Erythroblastosis Virus is necessary and sufficient for transformation of both hematopoetic and fibroblastic cells whereas v-erbA lacks transforming capacity by itself. While at the EMBL in Heidelberg he demonstrated in 1986 that the c-erbA gene encodes a high affinity thyroid hormone receptor (TR) and that the v-erbA protein does not bind hormone. Vennström was appointed professor at the Karolinska Institute in 1988. He suggested distinct roles for the thyroid hormone receptors alpha and beta during the early 1990s. To further characterise the roles of the TRs, he developed, by gene targeting, mouse strains that lack expression of one or more TR isoforms. Subsequent phenotype analyses, often done in close collaboration with his former post doc Dr Douglas Forrest, have identified specific roles for TR isoforms, e.g. in heart (heart rate), brain (cerebellar development), pituitary (TSH production), liver (cholesterol metabolism) and eye (cone development). This may be of considerable importance for the development of receptor specific agonists and antagonists.

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