Recorded: 01 Jun 2001
Harry Noller: I thought about the ribosome as a graduate student when I learned about protein synthesis. It was just being worked out at that time, but what intrigued me was the fact that the ribosome was moving along the message, one codon at a time. I was interested in muscle contraction, sort of as a side thing. One of my proposals for my oral exam, I did on muscle contraction. And Terrell Hill was there, who’s a theoretical chemist who was interested in muscle contraction. “How do molecules move?” It was just really an exciting thing, and it still is to me. I thought, “Wow! The ribosome is like the ultimate muscle.” You know? “It’s this little tiny movement that’s very precise and it’s happening during the translation of the genetic code,” I thought. So that was my first, sort of, intrigue about the ribosome. Then I did hear a little about it in Ieuan Harris’s lab, because his postdoc Jean-Pierre Waller had done the first protein analysis of ribosomal proteins—the one that Jim talked about, when he saw about 30 bands on a starch gel—and the first indication that ribosome was complicated. And Ieuan had done some end-group analysis on the ribosome proteins too, so I was hearing about the ribosomes from the people in the lab and they were using it and studying it but not directly there. But, you know, it was obviously a big protein chemistry problem. There were a lot of proteins, you know, and we were developing new protein chemistry methodology, you know, methods for sequencing, methods for isolating proteins and peptides and stuff. It was a really fun group of us in Ieuan’s lab and Brian Hartley was next door and César Milstein across the hall, so there was a lot of just new methodology coming out, diagonals and all kinds of stuff. New ways of sequencing that Hartley was developing, the Dansyl-Edman sequencing method, we were figuring out how to get bigger chunks with lysine blocking and all that. So the ribosome, you know, here’s something beyond just an enzyme. Fifty proteins, maybe, or at least dozens of proteins and, boy, you could have field day on this thing. You couldn’t miss.
Winship Herr, director of the University of Lausanne School of Biology and member of EMBO. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of California in 1974 and Ph.D. for studies on recombinant retroviruses in leukemogenic mice with Walter Gilbert from Harvard University in 1982. He completed his postdoctoral research studies in Cambridge (England) with Frederick Sanger and with Joe Sambrook in Cold Spring Harbor. After that he joined the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory faculty in 1984. From 1994 till 2002 he was an assistant director of the Laboratory and founding dean of the Watson School of Biological Sciences from 1998 till 2004. He is a professor of the Center for Integrative Genomics at the University of Lausanne.
Winship Herr is a former National Science Foundation predoctoral fellow, Rita Allen Foundation Scholar, Helen Hay Whitney postdoctoral fellow, and Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Biological Sciences.
Harry Noller, is best known for his work on on ribosomal RNA structure and function, currently the director of the University of California, Santa Cruz's Center for the Molecular Biology of RNA. He received his B.S. in biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Oregon.
He received the Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Sciences together with Drs. Moore and Steitz for their research on the ribosome. Harry Noller has been awarded Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize granted by the Paul Ehrlich Foundation.
He is a member of National Academy of Science, RNA Society and American Academy of Art and Science.