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Germaine Stanier (Cohen-Bazire)

Germaine Stanier (Cohen-Bazire) died on 9 May 2001. She was born Germaine Bazire in 1920 and educated in Toulouse, France. Her father was a high school science teacher and her mother a primary school teacher. After obtaining her high school diploma (Baccalaureat), she studied at the Faculty of Sciences of Toulouse. After the liberation of France, she came to Paris and worked at the Institut Pasteur on the mechanism of butyric and acetonobutylic fermentation, the subject of her 1950 Ph.D. thesis.

She then joined the laboratory of Jacques Monod at the Pasteur Institute and, in collaboration with M. Cohn and A. M. Pappenheimer Jr., contributed actively to the heroic period of research on the mechanisms of enzyme induction. Her research on the specificity of induction led to the concept of gratuitous inducers, and provided the experimental basis for the concept of the `differential rate of enzyme synthesis.' Her discovery, in 1953, with Jacques Monod of the specific inhibition of the synthesis of tryptophan synthase by tryptophan, along with a similar and simultaneous observation on the specific inhibition of methionine synthase by methionine, led to the concept of end-product repression of biosynthetic pathways.

In 1953, Germaine, thanks to her husband Roger Stanier, discovered a new microbial world, that of the photosynthetic prokaryotes. In Berkeley, Calif., she then started research on the physiological, biochemical, and structural properties of the principal groups of photosynthetic prokaryotes: the purple and green anoxyphotobacteria and the cyanobacteria. In particular, she became an excellent electron microscopist. More than 60 articles and a large number of unpublished results testified to the productivity and originality of Germaine's research in these domains.

Some of her most important results and those which had a wide scientific impact are as follows. (i) The very strict regulation of photosynthetic pigments (bacteriochlorophyll and carotenoids) by light and oxygen in members of the Athiorhodaceae: repressed under aerobic conditions, their rate of synthesis is inverse function of light intensity. (ii) The demonstration that the "chromatophores," sites of the photosynthetic activity in anoxyphotobacteria such as Chlorobium, are not isolated particles but intracytoplasmic vesicles. (iii) The discovery of the physiological role of carotenoids, rendered possible by the isolation of a mutant strain of Rhodopseudomonas spheroides: these pigments protect the organisms against the damaging effects of photooxidation. (iv) Her research on cyanobacteria, initiated in Berkeley and pursued after her return to Paris in 1971 until her retirement, provided important results on the structure and function of phycobiliproteins in cyanobacteria. Immunological studies revealed the high degree of evolutionary conservation of these photosynthetic antenna proteins in cyanobacteria and red algae.

Many years ago, Germaine Stanier described the beginning of her career by saying that she had been influenced by four persons: Monsieur Vandel, her biology professor at the University of Toulouse, Georges Cohen, her thesis supervisor, Jacques Monod, her "master of thinking," and Andre Lwoff, her "guardian angel." All through her scientific career, Germaine Stanier kept her fascination for biological phenomena, showing the same enthusiasm whether studying organisms, their structure, or their molecules. What was most admirable in Germaine was the courage with which she continuously chose the difficult paths, or virgin territories, and her insatiable desire to learn and to understand.

This very brief summary by no means reflects the vast richness of Germaine's scientific career. Internationally recognized as one of the specialists on photosynthetic prokaryotes, Germaine Stanier had also exceptional human qualities such as her generosity, intellectual honesty, and moral integrity. The important role she played in science was recognized in 1985 by her appointment as professor at the Pasteur Institute and is still evidenced by the continuation of the research unit, the "Unite des Cyanobacteries," a laboratory that was created in 1971 at the Pasteur Institute as the "Unité de Physiologie Microbienne" by Roger Y. Stanier in 1971 and was headed by Germaine from 1982 until her retirement in 1988. In addition to her academic interests, she acted for many years as treasurer of the International Cell Research Organization , in promoting training courses in the developing countries.

Germaine is survived by a son from her first marriage, Henri, by a daughter, Jane, and by seven grandchildren.

Agnes Ullmann, Georges N. Cohen, Francois Jacob
Institut Pasteur, Paris, France
(Courtesy of ASM News)