“Let’s read it out loud with feeling” is how Professor Marc Caron would begin a paper writing session. Every word read out loud, pausing to rewrite for clarity and flow, each paper receiving his attention and care. And indeed, there were many publications, all written with the desire to engage the reader and to share the science that Marc loved so much. Professor Marc Caron, passed away on April 25, 2022.
Dr. Caron held the title of a James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Cell Biology at Duke University, where he also served as the Vice-Chair for Science and Research in the department. He received his PhD in 1973 from the University of Miami and had made Duke his academic home since 1977. Dr. Caron’s scientific accomplishments were wide in scope and impactful. He approached science with a desire to not only delineate mechanisms, but to understand the physiological impact of molecular-level findings. Marc published over 650 manuscripts and was awarded the Julius Axelrod Award in Pharmacology (2005) as well as the Goodman and Gilman Award in Receptor Pharmacology (2018) from the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). He was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator for over a decade, a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Many knew Marc for his seminal work on G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) pharmacology; his early contributions include pioneering work cloning GPCRs and regulatory proteins and demonstrating their function in cellular models. Marc was the first to clone the D1 and D5 dopamine receptors and was the first to show that the dopamine D2 receptor signals through beta-arrestins. Moreover, he was the first to show that morphine differentially regulated mu opioid receptor trafficking compared to enkephalins, laying the foundation for examining biased opioid receptor signaling. In more recent years, Marc identified new drug candidates for the neurotensin 2A receptor. Dr. Caron was known for extending his biochemical findings into biologically relevant neurological systems.
In addition to his work on GPCRs, Marc made seminal contributions to understanding neurotransmitter homeostasis. He famously described the hyperactivity of the dopamine transporter knock out (DAT-KO) mouse. This important model, along with others mouse models described in the laboratory, has served as an important model for studying Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington Disease, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Indeed, Marc embraced new technological approaches and employed genetic models to understand the impact of molecular interactions on physiological responses; he was also known to be generous in sharing many of these models.
In addition to his highly productive research career, Marc was a true academic, serving his university and the scientific community in many ways: as a Center of Scientific Review study section member; course director; faculty mentor and recruiter; graduate student mentor and teacher. In 2018, he was honored for his mentorship, receiving the Research Mentoring Award for Basic Science at Duke. Dr. Caron was an editor for the Journal of Clinical Investigation and served as the editor for Biochemistry. Marc welcomed scientists from around the world to his laboratory and had an extensive network of collaborators. He was a welcomed addition to scientific programs as he was an excellent speaker, his passion and excitement for his research were readily shared.
Family was always very important to Marc and those of us who had the fortune to spend time in his lab, either as a trainee or a visiting scientist, can attest to that. He launched the careers of so many of us and we are grateful for his mentorship. Marc pushed us to be our best and to work hard, setting a strong example by his own dedication to research. Each Friday evening, he would leave the lab to say: “Have a good weekend, see you tomorrow…” We will miss you, Marc.