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Front. Plant Sci., 29 November 2011 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2011.00086

Obituary: Rafael Pont-Lezica (1940–2011)

  • Laboratoire de Recherche en Sciences Végétales, UMR5546 UPS/CNRS, Castanet Tolosan, France

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Rafael Pont-Lezica, Plant Physiology, Biochemistry, and Biotechnology Emeritus Professor at the Université de Toulouse, passed away on September 26, 2011 after losing his fight with cancer. He had studied agronomy at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, in Argentina, and in 1978 earned a Ph. D. at the Université de Gembloux, Belgium.

Rafael began his scientific career as a Research Assistant in Plant Physiology at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo (1966–1971), where his work was centered on plant morphogenesis and secondary metabolism. He then became Assistant Professor in Biology at the Fundación Bariloche, in Argentina (1972–1977), where he developed an interest in sugar metabolism, particularly in the synthesis of cellulose precursors and protein glycosylation.

He obtained a Humboldt Stiftung Fellowship in Dr. Heinrich Kaus’ lab in Kaiserslautern, West Germany (1978–1979) and from 1979 to 1988 he was a Professor at the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, in Argentina, where he co-founded, with Dr. Horacio Pontis, the Instituto de Investigaciones Biológicas. His main research topics there were on lectin biosynthesis and protein glycosylation. In the course of his first collaboration with Joe Varner, from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, USA, he focused his attention on the study of the plant cell wall. As a consequence he was invited as a visiting professor at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, USA (1987–1991). A crucial result of this fruitful collaboration was the development of the tissue printing technique, which became an alternative to in situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry.

In 1992, Rafael obtained a professorship at the Université de Toulouse and set up his own research group. Following his retirement in 2009, he became Emeritus Professor at the Université de Toulouse. As such he kept up an intense research activity, interacting with his former team, today called Cell Wall Proteins and Development, in reference to his mentorship. Rafael’s main research interest was the identification of Arabidopsis thaliana RGD-containing or integrin-like proteins involved in cell wall/plasma membrane contacts. He also began to work on plant cell wall proteomics. He presented the first overview of cell wall proteins and identified proteins that had never been described before. His most recent contribution was the setting up of two international research programs, introducing Brachypodium distachyon as a model plant for biomass production in our lab: European Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy (KBBE) and Comité Français d’évaluation de la Coopération Universitaire et Scientifique avec le Brésil (COFECUB). All these developments led to new insights in plant cell wall biology.

At the Université de Toulouse, Rafael directed the Plant Science Master’s Program (1999–2004) and the European Marie Curie Training Program SIGNAL (Plant Signaling and Biotechnology; 2001–2005). He was a member of numerous scientific groups and councils at the local, national, and international levels [the Fundación Bariloche, the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, the Université de Toulouse, the Ecole Doctorale de Biologie in Toulouse, the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) in Argentina, among others]. Although he developed his career in many different universities and countries, he stayed in touch with the colleagues with whom he had worked.

Rafael was an appreciated teacher, always encouraging graduate students, postdocs, and young colleagues in the lab. His sound judgment and numerous personal qualities were appreciated and called upon by his colleagues and collaborators. As a researcher and a human being, he was enthusiastic and creative, communicating his drive and love of life to those around him.

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Varner, J. E. (1989). Histochemical localization of cysteine-rich proteins by tissue printing on nitrocellulose. Anal. Biochem. 182, 334–337.

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Varner, J. E., Taylor, R., Cassab, G. I., Lin, J. J., Lin, L. S., and Yuen, H. (1988). Cell wall assembly and architecture. Curr. Topics Plant Biochem. Physiol. 7, 134–139.

Citation: Jamet E (2011) Obituary: Rafael Pont-Lezica (1940–2011). Front. Plant Sci. 2:86. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2011.00086

Received: 27 October 2011; Accepted: 05 November 2011;
Published online: 29 November 2011.

Copyright: © 2011 Jamet. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: jamet@lrsv.ups-tlse.fr