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Sidney Altman

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Sidney Altman
Sidney Altman crop.jpg
Altman in 2012
Born(1939-05-07)May 7, 1939[1]
DiedApril 5, 2022(2022-04-05) (aged 82)
NationalityCanadian & American
Alma materMIT, University of Colorado at Boulder
Known forRibozymes
Spouse(s)Ann Korner (m. 1972; 2 children)
AwardsNobel Prize in Chemistry (1989)
Lomonosov Gold Medal (2016)
Scientific career
FieldsMolecular biology
Doctoral advisorLeonard Lerman

Sidney Altman (May 7, 1939 – April 5, 2022) was a Canadian-American molecular biologist.[2][3] He was a Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Chemistry at Yale University. In 1989 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Thomas Cech for their work on the catalytic properties of RNA. Altman is of Jewish descent.

Works[change | change source]

Altman's Nobel Prize work came with the analysis of the catalytic properties of the ribozyme RNase P.[4] RNase P is a ribonucleoprotein particle, part RNA and part protein. Originally it was thought that, in the bacterial RNase P complex, the protein subunit was responsible for the catalytic activity of the complex.

During experiments in which the complex was taken apart and put together in test tubes, Altman and his group discovered a remarkable thing. The RNA component, in isolation, was enough for the observed catalytic activity of the enzyme. This was remarkable because, previously, it was thought that only enzymes could catalyse reactions in living cells. Altman's research showed that RNA itself had catalytic properties. This was the discovery that earned him the Nobel prize.[5]

Although the RNase P complex also exists in eukaryotic organisms, Altman's later work showed that in eukaryotes the protein subunits are essential to the catalytic activity, in contrast to the bacterial RNase P.[5]

Death[change | change source]

Altman died on April 5, 2022 in Rockleigh, New Jersey after a long illness at the age of 82.[6]

References[change | change source]

  1. Sidney Altman. Nobel Foundation
  2. Sidney Altman. Nobel Foundation
  3. James, Laylin K., ed. (1994). Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, 1901–1992. American Chemical Society and Chemical Heritage Foundation. p. 737. ISBN 0-8412-2459-5. Retrieved 2011-09-11.
  4. RNase P means "ribonuclease particle", which is a type of enzyme built of an RNA part and a protein part.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Newton, Carolyn D. (1990). "Altman, Sidney". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1990 Britannica Book of the Year. Chicago. p. 81. ISBN 0-85229-522-7.
  6. Laurans, Penny (April 6, 2022). "Sidney Altman, pathbreaking scientist". YaleNews. Retrieved April 6, 2022.

Other websites[change | change source]