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Conferencias Dr. Hector Torres y Dr. Ranwel Caputto

Conferencias Dr. Hector Torres

Héctor Norberto Torres, professor emeritus at the University of Buenos Aires and founding director of Argentina’s Institute for Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering, died on April 2, 2011 of a sudden heart attack. He was 75.

Torres, or Doc, as his students and close colleagues called him, had a distinguished career as one of Argentina’s leading biological chemists that started with his joining Nobel laureate Luis F. Leloir’s research group at the Institute of Biochemical Research, Fundación Campomar, in 1959, immediately after finishing medical school. There, Torres studied the mechanisms that regulate glycogen biosynthesis and earned a doctorate degree from the University of Buenos Aires in 1966.

Working mostly with graduate students and his lifelong collaborator and spouse, Mirtha Flawiá, in the early 1970s Torres discovered that the adenylyl cyclase-cAMP signaling system, which had recently been shown to mediate actions of peptide hormones and biogenic amines in vertebrates, also existed in the primitive fungus Neuropora crassa and proved that cAMP is a developmental cue in this organism.

After 1983, Torres focused on the molecular nature and roles of signaling pathways in the development of trypanosomes, specifically Trypanosoma cruzi, a protist that is one of the most primitive eukaryotes and is the etiologic agent of Chagas disease. Torres characterized enzymes controlling glycogen metabolism through phosphorylation/dephosphorylation mechanisms involving cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases, cyclic AMP and Ca/diacylglycerol stimulated protein kinase, adenylyl cyclase, nitric oxide synthase, G proteins and energy transducing systems – all possible targets of intervention to attack this parasite.

Among Torres’ later contributions are the findings that the signal by which an intermediary nonpathogenic form of T. cruzi progresses to the pathogenic form is the second messenger cAMP, generated in response to a peptide generated from globin in the hindgut of the transmitting insect; the discovery of a nitric oxide synthase in T. cruzi and the assignment of a role for nitric oxide in regulating the parasite’s motility; the discovery of phosphoarginine in T. cruzi; and the finding that the biosynthetic enzyme arginine kinase is evolutionarily related to arthropod arginine kinase, suggesting horizontal gene transfer.

More recently, Torres’ group cloned and characterized a T. cruzi SR-like protein and proved that it is the functional orthologue of a classic mammalian mRNA splicing factor. This proved that T. cruzi has the same machinery for splicing RNA as higher eukaryotes.

Torres remained scientifically active until the end. Death found him working on mechanisms that control osmoregulation in T. cruzi epimastigotes, on the regulation of poly (ADP-ribose) metabolism as it affects the DNA damage-response and cell death pathways, and on manipulating T. cruzi’s redox equilibrium to affect detoxification and pro-drug transformation, thus connecting basic research results to a possible solution for a major public health problem in his country. Torres was a stalwart of Argentine science. Except for a short time in the U.S. as a Guggenheim Fellow, he worked exclusively in his home country, where he assumed multiple leadership roles. Torres served on the executive councils of both the University of Buenos Aires and the Argentine National Research Council. In 1983, under the auspices of Leloir’s Institute and the Argentine Research Council, he founded South America’s first Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering. As INGEBI’s director, Torres fostered the development of young graduate students into mature scientists in an atmosphere of political freedom.

After 1985, in a newly democratized nation after twenty years of political oppression, Torres became dean of the University of Buenos Aires School of Sciences (1988 – 1990). In his role as dean, he is credited with having greatly diminished the wounds caused by the 1966 military intervention in academic affairs that all but destroyed that school’s scientific standing and prevented academic freedom under its roof.

Torres and his collaborators at INGEBI successfully mentored more than 138 graduate students and organized numerous advanced graduate courses with faculty members drawn from around the world, including the U.S. and Europe. INGEBI, which Torres directed until 2009, is home to 35 independent investigators, including Pew Latin American Fellows and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators, attesting to the high scientific standard Torres was able to attain for the research institute.

Deservedly, Héctor Torres was well recognized by his peers and won honors and awards. He was a member of the Argentine National Academies of Science (1998) and Medicine (2005) and corresponding member of the Brazilian (1999) and Chilean (2002) Academies of Science. Among his awards were the Premio Odol in Biology (1969), the Konex Platinum Award in Genetics (1993), the Luis F. Leoir Award in Chemistry (1996), the Bunge y Born Award in Molecular Biology (2000) and the J.J. Kyle Award of the Argentine Chemical Society (2005).

On a personal note, between 1964 and 1967, I was the Doc’s first graduate student. I’ll always remember when I first met him in his laboratory at the Fundación Campomar as a prospective graduate student with a “research plan” in hand, he said ”Here, we do not speculate, we pipet,” thus seeding my research career as an experimentalist. I am forever thankful to him for infusing in me enthusiasm for researching the wonders that make us living beings.

Lutz Birnbaumer


2012. Sergio Grinstein

Imaging phagocytosis: receptors, signaling and cytoskeleton

2014. Alberto Kornblihtt

Shedding light on alternative splicing

2015. LutzBirnbaumer

Mechanisms of Ca2+ entry into cells mediated by ORAI and TRPCS activated by the ER Ca2+ sensor STIM1

2016. Raul Andino

Trans-generational antiviral immunity in insects

2017. Enrique Mesri

               Molecular and cellular mechanisms of human viral oncogenesis


 Conferencias Dr. RanwelCaputto 

«Scientists cover a wide spectrum of personalities. At one end are those who are spectacularly clever, know all the answers, but rarely discover new facts. At the other are those who are quiet, profound, and have the ability and the luck of making discoveries. Undoubtedly, Ranwel Caputto is near the latter end of the spectrum. Without haste and without getting nervous, he has had many successes in his career. His style in research is not the systematic type, nor does he bother too much about details. I have the recollection of a talk with him many years ago in connection with cancer research. He was saying that he was tempted to get into the field, so I asked him how he would tackle such a difficult problem. He said; «Well I think I would start playing about with cancer cells, and then something might come out of it.» He never did any work on cancer, but he did play around with mammary glands, vitamin E, nervous tissue, gangliosides, and several other materials. In each of those fields, he contributed with signal advances.

Dr. Caputto was punctually born on the 1st of January, 1914, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and he studied medicine at the University of Cordoba, where he was graduated in 1940. In Cordoba he started research with Dr. Alberto Marsal on the alkaline phosphatase of the mammary gland. In 1945, he was awarded a British Council Fellowship and he went to the biochemical laboratory of Cambridge University. There he worked with Malcolm Dixon and was successful in crystallizing triosephosphate dehydrogenase of muscle. Crystallizing an enzyme in those times was a rather important feat. On his return to Argentina, he became a member of a group formed by C. Cardini, L. Leloir, A. Paladini, and R. Trucco which succeeded in isolating glucose 1-6 diphosphate, uridine diphosphate glucose, and other sugar nucleotides. Dr. Caputto’s contribution was invaluable, since he carried out some of the crucial experiments and produced some of the best ideas.

In 1953, he left for U.S.A. and worked first at the University of Ohio and then at that of Oklahoma. Those were productive years, during which he was interested in vitamin E and gastric juice proteins. Back in Cordoba in 1963, he initiated a strong research group in the university, a group that became one of the best in Latin America and the nucleus of the faculty of Cordoba University.

The main field of research of that group has been that of brain gangliosides, their mechanism of biosynthesis, their properties, their role in membrane structure, and their changes under stimulation of nerve cells. Besides that, the addition of amino acids to tubulin was studied and yielded novel results. In all these fields, the contributions of the Cordoba group have been very important.

For those of us who have had the privilege of working with Dr. Caputto, it is a pleasure to wish him the best on the occasion of his seventieth birthday.»

L.F. Leloir


2014. Jose Luis Daniotti

Protein lipidation: role in membrane association, intracelular trafficking and signaling

2015. Armando Parodi

The endoplasmic reticulum as the subcellular site that (almost) decides our fate

2016. Carlos Dotti

Brain cholesterol dysregulation with age: contribution to the cognitive deficits of the old

2017. Francisco E.Baralle

Aging, TDP43 aggregation and neurodegeneration