Biochemist Paul B. Sigler Named to Endowed Chair at Yale

Paul B. Sigler, a specialist at Yale on the chemical mechanisms in cell regulatory processes, has been named the Henry Ford II Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry by vote of the Yale Corporation.

Sigler is engaged in the study of two cell regulatory processes – controlled gene expression and transmembrane signaling. Specifically, he has investigated the interactions of proteins and nucleic acids and how genetic code is transcribed through selective binding of regulatory proteins to target DNA sequences. In addition, he recently led a team that received national attention for visualizing in atomic detail (three-dimensional computerized “snapshots”) how two female sex hormones, progesterone and estrogen, bind to their receptors. The team was also the first to solve the structure of progesterone binding with its receptor in humans. This work could help scientists develop better medications to treat breast cancer, ease the symptoms of menopause and prevent unwanted pregnancies.

In his research, Sigler uses X-ray crystallography to determine the three-dimensional structure of molecules and how they link together. His work has also revealed for the first time how genes in cells throughout the body respond to a large family of hormones that include the adrenal and sex steroids, vitamin D, thyroid hormone and retinoic acid, which is crucial in embryonic development. Among his current projects is an analysis of the structure and function of chaperonin-assisted protein folding.

Sigler, who is also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, joined the Yale faculty in 1989. Prior to coming to the University, he was a professor of molecular and theoretical biology, biophysics and biochemistry for 21 years at the University of Chicago.

A graduate of Princeton University, Sigler earned his medical degree from Columbia University in 1959 and was an intern and resident at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. He received a Ph.D. degree in biochemistry in 1968 from the University of Cambridge’s Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, where he was a Helen Hay Whitney Fellow.

Sigler has served on the editorial board of the journal Proteins and as editor of Current Opinions in Structural Biology (Protein-DNA Interactions). He is the recipient of numerous honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a U.S. Public Health Service Research Career Development Award and a Merit Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.