Saul Roseman, the Ralph S. O'Connor Professor of Biology in The Johns Hopkins University's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, was honored in a recent issue of The Journal of Biological Chemistry for a lifetime of contributions to the field.
In an article headlined "Hexosamine Metabolism, Sialic Acids, and the Phosphotransferase System: Saul Roseman's Contributions to Glycobiology," three colleagues from across the country credited Roseman with the discovery of how cells make glucosamine and sialic acid (two key building blocks of complex carbohydrates). They also recognized him for the identification of the phosphotransferase system, a process by which bacteria takes up sugar from the environment and/or from the blood of infected animals.
The article was part of the journal's "Classics" series, which features seminal papers published by the Journal of Biological Chemistry since its founding more than a century ago. When complete, the series will contain more than 300 original papers by what the Journal's Web site calls "many of the legends in biological chemistry." < p> Stanford University's Robert D. Simoni, the article's co-author and a former Roseman student, said that the Johns Hopkins researcher is the only scientist to ever have three of his papers selected as Classics, a situation Simoni calls "quite remarkable." Even more remarkable, according to Simoni, is the fact that each of Roseman's selected papers were on different topics, and from different stages of his career.
"Saul Roseman is one of the most important founders of the field of biochemistry, called glycobiology, that began to be recognized about 15 to 20 years ago," said Robert L. Hill, professor of biochemistry at Duke, and a co-author of the article with Simoni and Nicole Kresge of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. "His early research of the biosynthesis of complex carbohydrates was pioneering and led the way for the rest of us who subsequently also contributed to glycobiology."
Roseman was grateful for the tribute.
"I am very honored and pleased about the article, more, in fact, than any of the other honors that I have received," he said. "That's because the work that my colleagues and I have done — and continue to do — is being recognized by experts in the field as something special. This is really something unique."
Roseman has been honored frequently for his accomplishments in biochemistry, including by his election to the National Academy of Sciences. He has received the Gairdner Foundation Award, Brandeis University's Rosenstiehl Award, and an honorary degree from Sweden's University of Lund. Roseman also has been listed in The International Who's Who since 1973.
Roseman's continuing research interests include both glycobiology and sugar transport across the cell membrane. In glycobiology, his work has turned from the enzymatic synthesis of complex carbohydrates to two important problems. One involves the polysaccharide, chitin, which is similar in structure to cellulose, but which has glucosamine as its monosaccharide building block. Roseman is studying the complex process by which bacteria breaks down this second most abundant organic compound in nature, which otherwise would completely deplete the world's ecosystem. Roseman's second project — cell-cell recognition — is fundamental to both biology and medicine, and his current results "appear quite promising for the future," he says.
Born in Brooklyn in 1921, Roseman received his bachelor of science degree in chemistry from the City College of New York in 1941. In 1944, after earning his master's degree in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, he spent two years as an infantryman in Europe in World War II. He completed his Ph.D. at Wisconsin in 1947 after studying biochemistry with Karl Paul Link and organic chemistry with Homer Atkins. Roseman's graduate work with Link focused on the synthesis and metabolism of Dicumarol derivatives, common anticoagulants discovered by Link that are in wide use today. Thus began the researcher's enduring fascination with carbohydrates — a fascination which would take him through postdoctoral studies at the University of Chicago to the University of Michigan Medical School and finally, in 1965, to Johns Hopkins University's McCollum-Pratt Institute and the Department of Biology, which he has twice served as chairman.
"I have never met anyone who is more excited about science than Saul," said Victor Corces, a Johns Hopkins colleague of Roseman's. "Usually, making a discovery in biology today takes years of work, with many small steps. Saul is one of those unusual people who gets excited about the daily small steps. He also is one of the most insightful scientists I have ever met. He can see things in the results of an experiment that the rest of us could never imagine."
Allen Shearn, chairman of the Johns Hopkins Department of Biology, also praised Roseman's accomplishments.
"Most scientists never publish a paper that would be considered a 'Classic,'" said Shearn. "It is a privilege to have such a distinguished scientist as a colleague."
The article outlining Roseman's contributions appeared in the January 6, 2006, issue of The Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Related Web site:
Go to Headlines@HopkinsHome Page