Recorded: 20 May 2004
I ended up in the cell cycle initially from being interested in how did you generate the oscillations that might be involved in driving the cell cycle. So it was from a theoretical point of view, from the mathematical side. Quite simply. I found myself in the lab that was measuring oscillations and the levels of enzymes during the cell cycle and that was what Mitchison was interested in. It so happened that Paul had just arrived in his lab and had decided that the fission yeast, which was the yeast that Mitchison worked on, would also be good for studying the genetics of the cell cycle. I think it is rather interesting because really what Paul simply wanted to do what Hartwell [Leland H. Hartwell] had just done in budding yeast which was to isolate mutants that couldn’t execute various steps in the cell cycle. The idea was just, Well he’s done it and he was very successful. Maybe we could do it in fission yeast. And I got involved in this project. I think it’s one of those projects that had—you know in this day and age you apply to do money and people say “well why bother, its already been done.” And in a sense that was true, but of course, Paul made this extraordinary discovery very soon after he started this in that he was looking, he was trying to isolate mutants that couldn’t get through the cell cycle. And he tried to— it was a very laborious process— and he tried to enrich for these mutants and he tried fractionating cells on sucrose gradients by sedimentation velocity. And he thought well, cells that would get stuck on the cell cycle will end up big ’cause they couldn’t divide so they get bigger and bigger so they would sediment very fast so he started looking— trying to take the cells from the bottom of these gradients and then plating them out and then looking at them. And when he was doing this he suddenly saw these cells that divided at half the cell size. And I sort of arrived in the lab just when he had made this discovery. So that was an exciting, very interesting period.
Kim Nasmyth is the Head of the Biochemistry Department of the University of Oxford and the Whitley Professor of Biochemistry. He was educated in Great Britain and earned his Ph.D in Zoology from the University of Edinburgh. He did his postdoctoral studies in Ben Hall's labolatory in Seattle Washington. He spent one year at Cold spring Harbor Laboratories as a Robertson Fellow. He was the Director of the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna (Austria). He is one of the discoverer of cohesin, protein complex which during cell division is crucial for faithful chromosome segregation.
Professor Nasmyth is a fellow of the Royal Society and Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received many scientific honours, including the Max Perutz Prize, the Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine and the Wittgenstein Prize and the Unilever Science Prize.
More information: Wikipedia