Skip to Main Content

Protein basic to life is research focus of new Higgins Professor

Mark Hochstrasser

Mark Hochstrasser, Ph.D., the newly named Eugene Higgins Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, is engaged in research at the crossroads of biochemistry and genetics aimed at understanding how specific proteins are rapidly degraded within cells while most others are spared.

Using baker’s yeast as a model system, Hochstrasser and his laboratory team focus on ubiquitin, a fundamental regulatory protein found, as its name implies, throughout all eukaryotic cells. Among many other functions, ubiquitin tags proteins for destruction. Defects in the ubiquitin pathway have been linked to cancer, developmental abnormalities, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and certain forms of mental retardation.

In related research, Hochstrasser is analyzing the function and dynamics of protein modification by other, ubiquitin-related proteins. One such protein he is studying, called SUMO, attaches to many other proteins and is crucial for progression of the cell cycle.

Hochstrasser holds two patents related to this work, which has been published in numerous scientific and medical journals, including Nature, the Journal of Cell Biology, Cell, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Genetics and Nature Cell Biology.

Part of the Yale faculty since 2000, Hochstrasser holds appointments in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and the School of Medicine’s Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program. He earned his B.A. at Rutgers University and his Ph.D. at the University of California, San Francisco, and conducted postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Hochstrasser has earned numerous honors for his scientific contributions, including a Young Investigator Award from the Cancer Research Foundation and designation as a Searle Scholar and a Fletcher Scholar.

A member of the editorial board/virtual faculty of the Targeted Proteins Database and the journal Cell, Hochstrasser has served on several National Institutes of Health study sections. He is a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Society for Microbiology.

Yale Netcast
“Teaching Science: Lighting a Fire”