Tony Hunter


Professor Anthony (Tony) Hunter, a Professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory and Director of the Salk Institute Cancer Center, studies how cell growth and division are regulated, and how mutations in genes that control growth lead to cancer. His group has made significant contributions in the area of signal transduction, elucidating how signals that stimulate or inhibit proliferation are transmitted within a cell.

In 1979, his group discovered that phosphate can be attached to tyrosine residues in proteins. This seminal discovery opened the door to the study of tyrosine kinases and their role in signal transduction, and in cell proliferation and development, as well as to their role in cancer and other human diseases. This knowledge already has resulted in the development of selective tyrosine kinase inhibitors that provide a new approach to cancer treatment.

His current efforts are aimed at elucidating how post-translational modification of proteins by phosphorylation, ubiquitylation, and sumoylation is used to regulate cell proliferation and cell cycle checkpoint activation in response to DNA damage. His recent work has highlighted crosstalk between phosphorylation and ubiquitylation, and between sumoylation and ubiquitylation in the control of cell signalling pathways, and in particular has defined the role of SUMO-targeted E3 ubiquitin ligases, such as RNF4 family ligases, that ubiquitylate sumoylated proteins leading to their degradation. His group has also defined a role for ubiquitylation in lifespan determination in C. elegans, characterized the consequences of somatic mutations in protein kinases such as DAPK3 in carcinogenesis, and has recently developed antibody reagents for studying histidine phosphorylation.

Awarded the 2014 Royal Medal of the Royal Society for his discovery of tryosine phosphorylation by src protein kinase that revolutionised our understanding of cellular signal transduction.

Professor Hunter was elected a Junior Research Fellow of the College in 1968, and was fellow from 1968-1971 and 1973-1975.