The prize will be split three ways between UK-based chemist Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A. Steitz of the United States, and Ada E. Yonath of Israel “for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome”, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Wednesday.
Found within cells, ribosomes use the information found in DNA molecules to produce proteins which play vital roles in the chemistry of living organisms.
Any of the thousands of different proteins created by ribosomes, from haemoglobin to insulin, affect and control the chemical processes which create and sustain life.
This year’s three Nobel chemistry prize winners have all created 3D models showing how various antibiotics bind to the ribosome.
Through their models, each winner has shown what the ribosome looks like and how it functions at the atomic level, using a method called X-ray crystallography to map the position for each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that make up the ribosome.
The enhanced understanding of the ribosome’s inner-workings achieved through the winners’ models has shown scientists how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome, thus aiding in the development of new antibiotics.
Ramakrishnan, a US citizen, was born in India in 1952 and earned a PhD in physics from Ohio University in the United States. He is currently a senior scientist at Cambridge University’s MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.
Steitz was born in Wisconsin in 1940, earning a PhD in molecular biology and biochemistry from Harvard University. He now works as a professor at Yale University.
Yonath was born in Jerusalem in 1939 and received a PhD in X-ray Crystallography from the Weizmann Institute of Science, where she is now a professor of structural biology.