Ronald D. Vale is a Vice President of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Executive Director of its Janelia Research Campus. Dr. Vale received his Ph.D. in Neurosciences from Stanford University in 1985, was a Staff Fellow with the NIH stationed at the Marine Biological Laboratory in 1985-6 and began his faculty appointment in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco in 1987. Vale is involved in several activities that benefit the scientific community. He founded iBiology, a non-profit organization that produces videos of scientific talks by leading scientists and makes them freely available. Vale founded XBio (The Explorer’s Guide to Biology), a new type of learning resource of undergraduate biology. He founded ASAPbio, a non-profit organization, to improve scientific publishing in the life sciences. He founded IndiaBioscience, a networking organization for the life sciences in India. Vale founded the annual Young Investigator Meeting for young Indian scientists. He previously co-directed the MBL Physiology Course for five years and founded/directed the Bangalore Microscopy Course. Vale’s laboratory developed free, open- source software for light microscopy (MicroManager). He served as President of the American Society of Cell Biology and chaired an NIH study section. Vale co-founded the biotech companies Cytokinetics, Faze, and Myeloid Therapeutics. Vale received the Canada Gairdner International Award the Lasker Award in Basic Medical Research, the Shaw Prize in Life Sciences, the Massry Prize, the Wiley Prize, and the Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the European Molecular Biology Organization, and the Indian National Science Academy.
The flagella of mammalian sperm display non-planar, asymmetric beating, in contrast to the planar, symmetric beating of flagella from sea urchin sperm and unicellular organisms. The molecular basis of this difference is unclear. In this talk, I will present results from in situ cryo-electron tomography of mouse and human sperm axonemes, which have provided the highest resolution information to date on these structures. The subtomogram averages reveal mammalian sperm-specific protein complexes both within the microtubule outer doublets and that are part of the radial spokes and nexin-dynein regulatory complexes. These complexes may play roles in enhancing the mechanical strength of mammalian sperm axonemes and regulating dynein-based axonemal bending. Intriguingly, we find that each of the nine outer microtubule doublets are decorated with a distinct combination of sperm-specific protein complexes. This asymmetric distribution of proteins might differentially regulates the sliding of each doublet microtubule and may underlie the asymmetric beating of mammalian sperm. We are currently identifying the molecular nature of these complexes and testing their roles in sperm beating.