Michael Levine (biologist)

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Prof. Michael S. Levine
ResidenceBerkeley, CA
NationalityAmerican
FieldsDevelopmental biology
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley (1976) and Yale University (Ph.D., 1981)
Doctoral advisorAlan Garen
Doctoral studentsAlbert Erives (Iowa)
Known forHomeobox, eve stripe-2, ascidian developmental biology
Notable awardsNAS Award in Molecular Biology (1996)
Notes
Member of the National Academy of Sciences (1998)
 
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Prof. Michael S. Levine
ResidenceBerkeley, CA
NationalityAmerican
FieldsDevelopmental biology
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley (1976) and Yale University (Ph.D., 1981)
Doctoral advisorAlan Garen
Doctoral studentsAlbert Erives (Iowa)
Known forHomeobox, eve stripe-2, ascidian developmental biology
Notable awardsNAS Award in Molecular Biology (1996)
Notes
Member of the National Academy of Sciences (1998)

Michael "Mike" S. Levine (b. circa 1954, West Hollywood, California) is an American developmental biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, notable for co-discovering the Homeobox in 1983 and for discovering the organization of the regulatory regions of developmental genes.[1] Fellow biologist Sean Carroll said of Levine, "Mike's work has done for animal development what the work on the lac operon and phage lambda did for understanding gene regulation in simpler organisms ... [Those] two big discoveries had a very large conceptual significance for developmental biology and by extension for evolutionary biology."[2]

Contents

Biography

Levine was born in West Hollywood and raised in Los Angeles.[1] Levine studied biology as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, studying biology with Allan Wilson[1] and graduating in 1976.[3] Although he described some family pressure to become a doctor ("Coming from a modest background, particularly a Jewish family, the pressure to become a doctor was intense"),[1] he went on to graduate studies at Yale, studying with Alan Garen and receiving in 1981 a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry.[3]

Levine has been a professor at UC Berkeley since leaving UCSD in 1996.[4]

Homeobox discovery

Levine then post-docced with Walter Gehring in Switzerland from 1982 to 1983.[5] There, he co-discovered the homeobox with Ernst Hafen and fellow post-doc William McGinnis:[6]

After learning that Ultrabithorax, a gene that specifies the development of wings, showed a localized pattern of expression similar to that of Antennapedia, they decided to revisit the classic papers of Ed Lewis. In 1978, Lewis had proposed that all these homeotic genes (the ones that tell animals where to put a wing and where to put a leg and so on) arose from a common ancestral gene. So McGinnis carved up the Antennapedia gene and, using those pieces as probes, the trio identified eight genes, which turned out to be the eight homeotic genes in flies. "That pissed off a lot of people," says Levine. "The homeotic genes were the trophies of the Drosophila genome. And we got 'em all. I mean, we got 'em all!" Far from being humble, Levine says, "We were like, 'We kicked your ass pretty good, didn't we, baby!' Those were the days."[1]

even-skipped stripe 2

Levine briefly returned to UC Berkeley as a postdoctoral fellow[3] with Gerry Rubin.[7] He then joined the faculty of Columbia University, where he "led the discovery of the modular organization of the regulatory regions of developmental genes."[2] After isolating the even-skipped ("eve") gene, Levine's team determined that each of the seven stripes was produced by separate enhancers.[1] With further study they discovered that both a set of activators and a set of repressors worked together to shape the expression of eve in the second stripe, and determined that the repressors shut down only their binding enhancers, leaving other enhancers free of repression.[1] Joseph Corbo said of the work,

"Before Levine's studies of even-skipped stripe 2, it wasn't clear how you generated spatially restricted patterns of gene expression from initially broad crude gradients of morphogens. I think that the even-skipped stripe 2 studies were the defining studies that showed how an organism can interpret those gradients and turn them into specific patterns of gene expression. To me that's Mike's crowning achievement."[1]

Ciona

After earning tenure in only four years at Columbia,[1] Levine moved to UCSD in 1991,[3] where he added the sea squirt, Ciona intestinalis, to his repertoire. Although much of Levine's work, including his homeobox studies, has been done in Drosophila[5] Levine's team is also prominent in work with the sea squirt, Ciona intestinalis, an invertebrate that facilitates study of development.[1] For example, this work included insights into classical myodeterminants [8] [9] [10] and the composition of the notochord, the defining tissue of the chordate phylum. [11]

Professional relations

Levine cites as a significant influence his instructor Fred Wilt (taking his developmental biology class "was probably the single most galvanizing experience I had in terms of defining my future goals"),[7] and cites fellow scientists Eric Davidson, Peter Lawrence and Christiane Nusslein-Volhard as "mentors [and] friends ... over the years".[7]

Levine is well-known within academic biologist circles for his unconventional sense of humor, including an incident in which he lit a ring of fire around a postdoc:[1]

"The most famous thing I ever did is I torched one of my postdocs," says Levine. [Joseph] Corbo was there at the time. "Mike got a squirt bottle of ethanol, unbeknownst to this hapless postdoc who was sitting at his bench minding his own business," says Corbo. Levine shot a ring of ethanol around the young man's seat and trailed a wick into the hallway. Then he lit it. "So this tongue of flame snaked into the lab and encircled this postdoc," says Corbo. "My technique was a little off and I put a little too much ethanol around his bench. So it's true, he was temporarily enveloped in a curtain of fire," says Levine. "But the fire receded and he was ok."[1]

Awards

Notable papers


Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Karen Hopkin, "Fire Fly", The Scientist, v.21, n.3, p.58 (March 1, 2007) (profile of Levine).
  2. ^ a b Sean B. Carroll, quoted in Karen Hopkin, "Fire Fly", The Scientist, v.21, n.3, p.58 (March 1, 2007) (profile of Levine).
  3. ^ a b c d UCSD Press Release, April 30, 1996.
  4. ^ a b Wilbur Cross Medal 2009 Winners Bios, Yale University (last visited 2012 July 29) ("The Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal is an honor presented each year by the Graduate School Alumni Association to a small number of outstanding alumni. The medal recognizes distinguished achievements in scholarship, teaching, academic administration, and public service–all areas in which the legendary Dean Cross excelled.")
  5. ^ a b "What have you got in common with a fly?", Science Museum, South Kensington, UK (last visited July 29, 2012).
  6. ^ McGinnis W; Levine MS, Hafen E, Kuroiwa A, Gehring WJ (1984). "A conserved DNA sequence in homoeotic genes of the Drosophila Antennapedia and bithorax complexes". Nature 308 (5958): 428–33. doi:10.1038/308428a0. PMID 6323992. 
  7. ^ a b c d Mike Levine (Abstract), Current Biology, v.13, n.14, R545 (July 15, 2003).
  8. ^ Erives, A., Levine, M. (2001). "Cis-regulation of ascidian tail muscle genes.". Proceedings of the First International Symposium on the Biology of Ascidians.. Tokyo: Springer-Verlag. 
  9. ^ Erives, A. and Levine, M. (2000). "Characterization of a maternal T-box gene in Ciona intestinalis.". Developmental Biology 225: 169-178. 
  10. ^ Erives, A., Corbo, J.C., Levine, M. (1988). "Lineage-specific regulation of the Ciona snail gene in the embryonic mesoderm and neuroectoderm.". Developmental Biology 194: 213–225. 
  11. ^ Takahashi, H., Hotta, K., Erives, A., Di Gregorio, A., Zeller, R.W., Levine, M. and Satoh, N. (1999). "Brachyury downstream notochord differentiation in the ascidian embryo.". Genes & Development 13: 1519-1523. 
  12. ^ "Michael Levine", Searle Scholars Program directory. (last visited July 29, 2012).
  13. ^ "90 Scientists and Economists Win Sloan Research Awards", New York Times, March 10, 1985.
  14. ^ "NAS Award in Molecular Biology", National Academy of Sciences (Awarded for recent notable discovery in molecular biology by a young scientist age 45 or younger).
  15. ^ "Michael S. Levine", National Academy of Sciences Member Directory (last visited 2012 July 29).

External links

Seminars and Talks


Interviews (print and video)


Profiles