The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded The Gregori Aminoff Prize in crystallography 2012 to Marat Yusupov and Gulnara Yusupova, Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, France, and Harry F. Noller, University of California Santa Cruz, USA,
“for their crystallographic studies on ribosomes, translators of the code of life”.
Mapped protein synthesis opens for targeted antibiotics
If the DNA is the plans of life then the ribosome is the assembly factory. Every cell contains ribosomes, in which the instructions recorded in the DNA are decoded into functioning proteins, building block by building block. Marat Yusupov, Gulnara Yusupova and Harry F. Noller have been awarded the Gregori Aminoff Prize in crystallography 2012, for their atomic level mapping of the ribosome structure, something that provides a basis for the development of targeted antibiotics.
Ribosomes are long chains of RNA and proteins interlaced together in complicated foldings. They are fragile complexes of different size entities, which only assemble when a new protein has to be put together. The ribosomes also change shape all the time to make sure only the proper building block, i.e. amino acid, can attach to the protein chain to be. All this has been known since the 1970’s. However, the detailed structure of the ribosomes has been frustratingly difficult to investigate.
Gulnara Yusupova and Marat Yusupov and collaborators in the former Soviet Union managed to crystallize parts of the ribosomes from bacteria in the late 1980’s, but it took years of effort to achieve eventual success. The Yusupov couple started collaborating with the doyen of ribosome biochemistry, Harry F. Noller in the United States to produce clean crystals of whole ribosomes, which was successful in 2001.
To map the structure of ribosomes from cells with a cell nucleus like, for example, human cells took more time but several milestones were published in the scientific journals Nature and Science by Noller in the USA and the Yusupov couple, now in France. However, in 2010 Yusupov and Yusupova managed to map the long awaited entire structure of the giant apparatus of the protein synthesis.
As we now have a detailed knowledge of the ribosome structure of both bacteria and humans, we can find ways to knock out the protein production of bacteria without affecting the human production. This is an important first step towards understanding and producing targeted antibiotics.
The Prize is awarded at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Annual meeting on 31 March 2012.
Prize amount: SEK 100 000 to be shared equally between the Laureates.
Marat Yusupov, Russian and French citizen. Born in Russia in 1956. PhD at the Institute of Protein Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Biological Scientific Center of Russian Academy of Sciences, Pushchino) and Moscow State University. Reserach Associate Biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, USA. Directeur de Recherche at the Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, IGBMC, Strasbourg, France.
Gulnara Yusupova, Russian and French citizen. Born in Russia in 1958. PhD at the Institute of Protein Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Biological Scientific Center of Russian Academy of Sciences, Pushchino) and Moscow State University. Reserach Associate Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, USA. Directeur de Recherche at the Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, IGBMC, Strasbourg, France.
Harry F. Noller, American citizen. Born in 1939 in Oakland, California. PhD at the University of Oregon. Postdoc at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge and at the Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Geneva. Director and Robert Louis Sinsheimer Professor of Molecular Biology at the Center for Molecular Biology of RNA, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA.
The Gregori Aminoff Prize
The Aminoff Prize is intended to reward a documented, individual contribution in the field of crystallography, including areas concerned with the dynamics of the formation and determination of crystal structures. The prize may be awarded either to an individual Swedish or foreign researcher, or to a joint research group of no more than three persons. The Aminoff Prize was awarded for the first time in 1979.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, founded in 1739, is an independent organization whose overall objective is to promote the sciences and strengthen their influence in society. The Academy takes special responsibility for the natural sciences and mathematics, but endeavours to promote the exchange of ideas between various disciplines.