College of Life Sciences Principal Investigator, Ron Hay FRSE FMedSci, Professor of Molecular Biology at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression has been elected as a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation, EMBO.

Professor Hay’s lab works with a number of groups at the College of Life Sciences and is also an honorary member of the Protein Ubiquitination Unit of the Scottish Institute for Cell Signalling SCILLS. The objective of work in the laboratory is to determine the function of modification with the Small Ubiquitin-like Modifier (SUMO) in important biological processes. The laboratory utilizes a wide variety of approaches and combines cell, molecular and structural biology. Recently Professor Hay’s research has demonstrated that polySUMO chains act as recognition sites for ubiquitylation mediated by the ubiquitin ligase Rnf4. This unexpected link between the SUMO and ubiquitin modification pathways targets the Promyelocytic Leukaemia (PML) protein for arsenic-induced, proteasomal degradation. Identifying the role of Rnf4 in arsenic induced degradation of PML established the molecular basis of arsenic therapy in the treatment of leukaemia and suggested additional approaches to drug discovery that are presently being explored.

Ron Hay was born and educated in Dundee and studied for a degree in Biochemistry at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. He received his PhD in 1979 from the Medical Research Council Virology Unit in Glasgow, working on viral DNA replication. A Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Fund postdoctoral fellowship award allowed him to pursue this interest in the laboratory of Dr Mel DePamphilis at Harvard Medical School. He returned to the MRC Virology Unit in 1982 where he established his independent laboratory. In 1985 he moved to the University of St. Andrews where he held Lecturer and Reader positions before taking up the Chair in Molecular Biology and becoming Deputy Director of the new Centre for Biomolecular Sciences. In October 2005 he took up the Chair of Molecular Biology at the University of Dundee and is part of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression.

Professor Angus Lamond, Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression nominated Professor Hay for EMBO membership. He said, “I am delighted at Ron&requo;s election to EMBO. This is a well deserved honour and an excellent example of how Dundee has become a world leading centre for biomedical research that has attracted some of Europe’s best scientists to work here.”

Professor Mike Ferguson, Dean of the School of Research at CLS said, “I am delighted that Ron has been recognised by EMBO for his outstanding research, including his seminal contributions on the roles of the ubiquitin-like proteins SUMO and NEDD8 on gene expression.”

Ron Hay’s reaction to the announcement was, “It is a great honour to be elected to EMBO and extremely gratifying to have the research carried out in my laboratory recognized in this fashion.”

Research in Professor Hay’s lab is funded by the BBSRCCRUK, the European Union and the Wellcome Trust.