University of Oslo- UiO- Norway
Prof. Dr. Anne Simonsen
1. How did you get into the autophagy field and why is the field important to you?
Science took me into the autophagy field. I was working with endocytosis and FYVE proteins (PI3P binding) and cloned a new FYVE protein (ALFY), which turned out to co-localize with ATG5 and LC3. Autophagy is important to me for many reasons, the main being the importance of autophagy in cellular homeostasis and disease. It will be crucial to understand why, when and how autophagy is implicated in various diseases and also to identify the molecular mechanisms involved. Our aim is to unravel mechanisms of autophagy to pave the way for novel therapeutic approaches. The autophagy field is also a very nice field to work in, where I have made several good friends over the years.
2. What is a key question in the autophagy field now? Where do you think the field is heading?
It has recently become clear that LC3B (and probably all Atg8 homologs) has other roles than in macroautophagy and also can be conjugated to single membrane vesicles. LC3 has been/is the main autophagosome marker and depletion of its conjugation machinery (Atg5, Atg7) typically used to inhibit macroautophagy. I think we need to clarify the role of LC3s in other, so-called non-canonical, pathways, and at the same time discuss the terminology used. Moreover, I think we need to better understand the machinery involved in the different types of selective autophagy and also unravel the autophagosome content under different conditions.
3. Should you meet any scientist, currently living or deceased, who would it be and why?
There are so many great scientists to admire and I do not have one particular scientific hero, but I think it would have been very interesting to meet Marie Curie and discuss with her how it was to be a woman in science at her time.
4. What advice do you have for early career scientists that want to enter the autophagy field?
I would advice any early career scientist to work hard, be focused and innovative and most importantly, enjoy what you are doing. Some people (like me) enjoy the nerdy mechanistic details, while others are better at the larger picture. Follow your heart – my experience is that what you enjoy is also what you will do best. There is still so much to do in the autophagy field, so try to find a niche within your field of expertise. Be open and interactive. Don’t be afraid to collaborate with other labs.