Yale's Bogan Honored as Keck Foundation Distinguished Young Scholar

Jonathan Bogan, M.D.
photo credit: J. Domian/Yale Medical School

Endocrinologist Jonathan Bogan, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale School of Medicine has been named one of the five Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research for 2006 by the W. M. Keck Foundation, a leading supporter of high-impact medical research, science and engineering.

Robert A. Day, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation, said: “Now in its eighth year, our Young Scholars program helps to promote the early career development of some of the country’s brightest young biomedical scientists. We are once again very pleased to support a group of young investigators who we believe have the promise to become our nation’s research leaders.”

Under the Keck Foundation program, each grant recipient’s sponsoring institution receives an award of as much as $1 million to support the scientist’s research activities for a period of five years.

Bogan’s research focuses on how insulin triggers cells to take up glucose from the blood, a fundamental process for cells. Type 2, or “insulin-resistant,” diabetes results when the process goes awry in fat and muscle cells, and they fail to respond to insulin and utilize glucose effectively.

In the United States, diabetes is estimated to affect 20.8 million people, or 7% of the population, and 90% of those affected have type 2 diabetes. Understanding this process at the molecular level could lead to improved treatments for diabetes and other metabolic disorders. 

Confocal microscope images show that in unstimulated fat cells (left) the glucose transporter GLUT4 (green) is located in the cell interior and is closely associated with TUG (red); overlap of the two proteins appears yellow. In insulin-stimulated cells (right) TUG remains interior after releasing GLUT4 to the surface of the cell. From Bogan, et.al., Nature 425:727-33 (2003).

“While most research on insulin stimulation of glucose uptake has focused on the cell surface receptor that binds insulin and begins a signaling process inside the cell, we have targeted the other end of the process,” said Bogan.

Glucose cannot enter the cell by itself, since it is water-soluble and the cell membranes are made of fatty lipids. Bogan studies two particular cellular proteins that help to coordinate glucose uptake — GLUT4, a glucose transporting protein that appears on the cell surface in response to insulin, and TUG, a tethering protein that holds GLUT4 in place inside the cell until insulin stimulation releases it to the cell surface. Bogan and his coworkers first identified TUG in 2003.

His project will examine the relationship of these two key proteins with other molecules in the cell. He will take advantage of collaborations at Yale with investigators in structural biology, physiology and cell biology to investigate the complexes formed, the biochemistry involved, and the way the protein complexes traffic throughout the cell.

Bogan received his medical degree and training at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital after earning his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Yale. Prior to joining the Yale faculty in 2002, he was a Visiting Scientist at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and a member of the medicine faculty at Harvard.

Initially established in 1998 as a five-year, $25 million initiative, the Keck Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research program was designed to support groundbreaking research addressing the fundamental mechanisms of human disease. The W.M. Keck Foundation Board renewed the program for an additional five years in 2003.

The Foundation’s Medical Research staff and a scientific advisory committee of outside scientific experts evaluated each applicant, nominated by his or her academic institution. Other 2006 grant recipients of the Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research program are Luis Amaral at Northwestern University, Seth Blackshaw at Johns Hopkins University, Russell DeBose-Boyd of University at Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and Amy Pasquinelli at University of California, San Diego.

Previous awardees at Yale are Kevin White, Associate Professor of Genetics (2003), and Mark Gerstein, Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry (1999).

More information about the W.M. Keck Foundation and the Young Scholars program, is available at www.wmkeck.org/programs/scholars.html.

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Janet Rettig Emanuel: janet.emanuel@yale.edu, 203-432-2157