Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Nobel Laureate: Christian B. Anfinsen

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1972.

"for his work on ribonuclease, especially concerning the connection between the amino acid sequence and the biologically active conformation"

Christian B. Afinson won the Nobel Prize in 1972 for his studies on the folding of ribonuclease A and the role of disulfide bonds. (See Disulfide Bridges Stabilize Folded Proteins and The Anfinsen Experiment in Protein Folding.) Anfinsen made some of the key observations demonstrating that protein folding is spontaneous. Here's part of the presentation speech by Bo Malmström,
Every living organism has its own characteristic pattern of enzymes. It can also produce a copy of itself, and this progeny has the same enzymes. An important question concerns the source of the information which has to be passed on from generation to generation for the enzyme pattern to be preserved. We know, thanks to contributions which have led to earlier Nobel Prize awards, that a specific molecule, called DNA, serves as the carrier of the traits of inheritance. These traits are expressed by DNA controlling the synthesis of enzymes. DNA accomplishes this by determining the sequence of the amino acids making up a particular protein molecule. An active enzyme does not, however, consist just of a long chain of amino acids linked together, but the chain is folded in space in a way which gives the molecule a globular form. What is the source of the information responsible for this specific folding of the peptide chain? It is this question in particular which has been the concern of Anfinsen's investigations. In a series of elegant experiments he showed that the necessary information is inherent in the linear sequence of amino acids in the peptide chain, so that no further genetic information than that found in DNA is necessary.

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