Page URL:

Nobel chemistry prize for structural biology

19 October 2009
Appeared in BioNews 530
The 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded to three structural biologists for their work exploring the functioning of ribosomes at the atomic level. The laureates, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A Steitz and Ada E Yonath, have been recognized for the development and application of a novel X-ray technique known as X-ray crystallography in investigating the atomic level functioning of ribosomes.

Ribosomes form a central part of our bodies' basic processes of construction, realising our DNA through the creation of proteins fundamental to life such as hormones, antibodies and enzymes. Such materials are essential to the processes that support not just human but also animal, plant and other life as well. The X-ray crystallography technique permits the mapping of ribosomes atom-by-atom. This process has allowed not just for the production of images of ribosomes but also has allowed the creation of 3D models of ribosomes that are now being employed in pharmaceutical research and will hopefully enable the development of new generations of therapeutic intervention.

In a press release the Nobel Foundation stated that 'an understanding of the ribosome's innermost workings is important for a scientific understanding of life', adding that, in practical terms, 'this knowledge can be put to a practical and immediate use; many of today's antibiotics cure various diseases by blocking the function of bacterial ribosomes. Without functional ribosomes, bacteria cannot survive. This is why ribosomes are such an important target for new antibiotics.'

The three researchers span three continents (encompassing the Cambridge MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the UK, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel; and Yale University in the US), but all have generated their own 3D models of ribosomes that are being employed for drug research. In an interview with the New Scientist magazine Venki Ramakrishnan, an academic from the same lab as that in which Frances Crick shared the nobel prize for discovering DNA, explained how his work follows on from such earlier pioneering work: 'It's one of the central tenets of biology that DNA makes RNA makes protein. So I'm tremendously honoured to have received the prize for helping to explain how the ribosome works in the final step - reading the information contained in RNA and then producing proteins.'
Structural biology bags chemistry prize
Nature |  14 October 2009
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2009
Nobel Foundation press release |  7 October 2009
Venki Ramakrishnan: A Nobel display of modesty
New Scientist |  16 October 2009
18 February 2019 - by Dr Barbara Kramarz 
It was early October 2009. 'The prize for chemistry was to be announced on Wednesday. The chemistry prize often alternates between the hard-core chemists and the more biological chemists…
23 March 2015 - by Dr Hannah Somers 
Professor Sir Venkatraman Ramakrishnan has been confirmed to succeed Sir Paul Nurse as the President Elect of the Royal Society as of December this year...
12 October 2009 - by Nienke Korsten 
Three US scientists have won this year's Nobel prize for Medicine or Physiology for their work on how DNA protects itself from degradation, the Nobel Assembly at Sweden's Karolinska Institute announced on 5 October. Their discoveries 'have added a new dimension to our understanding of the cell, shed light on disease mechanisms, and stimulated the development of potential new therapies', the Assembly said....
13 October 2008 - by Adam Fletcher 
Three US-based scientists have won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work in identifying and manipulating the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). Professor Osamu Shimomura, of the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts; Professor Martin Chalfie, of Columbia University, New York; and Professor Roger Tsien, of...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.