J. Heinrich Matthaei

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J. Heinrich Matthaei
J. Heinreich Matthaei and Marshall Nirenberg (29819142523).jpg
J. Heinrich Matthaei (left) and Marshall Nirenberg
Born (1929-05-04) 4 May 1929 (age 92)
Alma mater Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Known forcontribution to solving the genetic code
Scientific career
Fieldsbiological chemistry
  • Max-Planck-Institut für experimentelle Medizin
  • National Institutes of Health

J. Heinrich Matthaei (born 4 May 1929) is a German biochemist. He is best known for his unique contribution to solving the genetic code on 15 May 1961. Whilst a post-doctoral visitor in the laboratory of Marshall Warren Nirenberg at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, he discovered that a synthetic RNA polynucleotide, composed of a repeating uridylic acid residue, coded for a polypeptide chain encoding just one kind of amino acid, phenylalanine. In scientific terms, he discovered that polyU codes for polyphenylalanine and hence the coding unit for this amino acid is composed of a series of Us or, as we now know the genetic code is read in triplets, the codon for phenylalanine is UUU. This single experiment opened the way to the solution of the genetic code. It was for this and later work on the genetic code for which Nirenberg shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology. In addition, Matthaei and his co-workers in the following years published a multitude of results concerning the early understanding of the form and function of the genetic code.

Why Matthaei, who personally deciphered the genetic code, was excluded from this scientific prize is one of the Nobel Prize controversies. Later, Matthaei was a member of the Max Planck Society in Göttingen.

Related Research Articles

Genetic code Rules by which information encoded within genetic material is translated into proteins.

The genetic code is the set of rules used by living cells to translate information encoded within genetic material into proteins. Translation is accomplished by the ribosome, which links proteinogenic amino acids in an order specified by messenger RNA (mRNA), using transfer RNA (tRNA) molecules to carry amino acids and to read the mRNA three nucleotides at a time. The genetic code is highly similar among all organisms and can be expressed in a simple table with 64 entries.

Hershey–Chase experiment DNA experiment

The Hershey–Chase experiments were a series of experiments conducted in 1952 by Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase that helped to confirm that DNA is genetic material.

RNA Family of large biological molecules

Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a polymeric molecule essential in various biological roles in coding, decoding, regulation and expression of genes. RNA and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) are nucleic acids. Along with lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates, nucleic acids constitute one of the four major macromolecules essential for all known forms of life. Like DNA, RNA is assembled as a chain of nucleotides, but unlike DNA, RNA is found in nature as a single strand folded onto itself, rather than a paired double strand. Cellular organisms use messenger RNA (mRNA) to convey genetic information that directs synthesis of specific proteins. Many viruses encode their genetic information using an RNA genome.

Ribosome Intracellular organelle consisting of RNA and protein functioning to synthesize proteins

Ribosomes are macromolecular machines, found within all living cells, that perform biological protein synthesis. Ribosomes link amino acids together in the order specified by the codons of messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules to form polypeptide chains. Ribosomes consist of two major components: the small and large ribosomal subunits. Each subunit consists of one or more ribosomal RNA (rRNA) molecules and many ribosomal proteins. The ribosomes and associated molecules are also known as the translational apparatus.

Phenylalanine Type of α-amino acid

Phenylalanine is an essential α-amino acid with the formula C
. It can be viewed as a benzyl group substituted for the methyl group of alanine, or a phenyl group in place of a terminal hydrogen of alanine. This essential amino acid is classified as neutral, and nonpolar because of the inert and hydrophobic nature of the benzyl side chain. The L-isomer is used to biochemically form proteins, coded for by DNA. Phenylalanine is a precursor for tyrosine, the monoamine neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and epinephrine (adrenaline), and the skin pigment melanin. It is encoded by the codons UUU and UUC.

Frederick Sanger British biochemist

Frederick Sanger was a British biochemist who twice won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, one of only two people to have done so in the same category, the fourth person overall with two Nobel Prizes, and the third person overall with two Nobel Prizes in the sciences. In 1958, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his work on the structure of proteins, especially that of insulin". In 1980, Walter Gilbert and Sanger shared half of the chemistry prize "for their contributions concerning the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids". The other half was awarded to Paul Berg "for his fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard to recombinant DNA".

Har Gobind Khorana

Har Gobind Khorana was an Indian American biochemist. While on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, he shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Marshall W. Nirenberg and Robert W. Holley for research that showed the order of nucleotides in nucleic acids, which carry the genetic code of the cell and control the cell's synthesis of proteins. Khorana and Nirenberg were also awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University in the same year.

Transfer RNA RNA that facilitates the addition of amino acids to a new protein

A transfer RNA is an adaptor molecule composed of RNA, typically 76 to 90 nucleotides in length, that serves as the physical link between the mRNA and the amino acid sequence of proteins. Transfer RNA (tRNA) does this by carrying an amino acid to the protein synthetic machinery of a cell called the ribosome. Complementation of a 3-nucleotide codon in a messenger RNA (mRNA) by a 3-nucleotide anticodon of the tRNA results in protein synthesis based on the mRNA code. As such, tRNAs are a necessary component of translation, the biological synthesis of new proteins in accordance with the genetic code.

The Nirenberg and Matthaei experiment was a scientific experiment performed in May 1961 by Marshall W. Nirenberg and his post-doctoral fellow, J. Heinrich Matthaei, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The experiment deciphered the first of the 64 triplet codons in the genetic code by using nucleic acid homopolymers to translate specific amino acids.

Nirenberg and Leder experiment

The Nirenberg and Leder experiment was a scientific experiment performed in 1964 by Marshall W. Nirenberg and Philip Leder. The experiment elucidated the triplet nature of the genetic code and allowed the remaining ambiguous codons in the genetic code to be deciphered.

Marshall Warren Nirenberg

Marshall Warren Nirenberg was an American biochemist and geneticist. He shared a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1968 with Har Gobind Khorana and Robert W. Holley for "breaking the genetic code" and describing how it operates in protein synthesis. In the same year, together with Har Gobind Khorana, he was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University.

Synthetic biology Interdisciplinary branch of biology and engineering

Synthetic biology (SynBio) is a multidisciplinary area of research that seeks to create new biological parts, devices, and systems, or to redesign systems that are already found in nature.

Xenobiology (XB) is a subfield of synthetic biology, the study of synthesizing and manipulating biological devices and systems. The name "xenobiology" derives from the Greek word xenos, which means "stranger, alien". Xenobiology is a form of biology that is not (yet) familiar to science and is not found in nature. In practice, it describes novel biological systems and biochemistries that differ from the canonical DNA–RNA-20 amino acid system. For example, instead of DNA or RNA, XB explores nucleic acid analogues, termed xeno nucleic acid (XNA) as information carriers. It also focuses on an expanded genetic code and the incorporation of non-proteinogenic amino acids into proteins.

A cell-free system is an in vitro tool widely used to study biological reactions that happen within cells apart from a full cell system, thus reducing the complex interactions typically found when working in a whole cell. Subcellular fractions can be isolated by ultracentrifugation to provide molecular machinery that can be used in reactions in the absence of many of the other cellular components. Eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell internals have been used for creation of these simplified environments. These systems have enabled cell-free synthetic biology to emerge, providing control over what reaction is being examined, as well as its yield, and lessening the considerations otherwise invoked when working with more sensitive live cells.

Expanded genetic code

An expanded genetic code is an artificially modified genetic code in which one or more specific codons have been re-allocated to encode an amino acid that is not among the 22 common naturally-encoded proteinogenic amino acids.

Cell-free protein synthesis, also known as in vitro protein synthesis or CFPS, is the production of protein using biological machinery in a cell-free system, that is, without the use of living cells. The in vitro protein synthesis environment is not constrained by a cell wall or homeostasis conditions necessary to maintain cell viability. Thus, CFPS enables direct access and control of the translation environment which is advantageous for a number of applications including co-translational solubilisation of membrane proteins, optimisation of protein production, incorporation of non-natural amino acids, selective and site-specific labelling. Due to the open nature of the system, different expression conditions such as pH, redox potentials, temperatures, and chaperones can be screened. Since there is no need to maintain cell viability, toxic proteins can be produced.

DNA and RNA codon tables List of standard rules to translate DNA encoded information into proteins

A codon table can be used to translate a genetic code into a sequence of amino acids. The standard genetic code is traditionally represented as an RNA codon table, because when proteins are made in a cell by ribosomes, it is messenger RNA (mRNA) that directs protein synthesis. The mRNA sequence is determined by the sequence of genomic DNA. In this context, the standard genetic code is referred to as translation table 1. It can also be represented in a DNA codon table. The DNA codons in such tables occur on the sense DNA strand and are arranged in a 5′-to-3′ direction. Different tables with alternate codons are used depending on the source of the genetic code, such as from a cell nucleus, mitochondrion, plastid, or hydrogenosome.

Nediljko Budisa

Nediljko "Ned" Budisa is a Croatian biochemist, professor and holder of the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair (CRC) for chemical synthetic biology at the University of Manitoba. As pioneer in the areas of genetic code engineering and chemical synthetic biology (Xenobiology), his research has a wide range of applications in biotechnology and engineering biology in general. Being highly interdisciplinary, it includes bioorganic and medical chemistry, structural biology, biophysics and molecular biotechnology as well as metabolic and biomaterial engineering. He is the author of the only textbook in his research field: “Engineering the genetic code: expanding the amino acid repertoire for the design of novel proteins”.

Dr. Herbert Weissbach is an American biochemist/molecular biologist.

Transcription-translation coupling is a mechanism of gene expression regulation in which synthesis of an mRNA (transcription) is affected by its concurrent decoding (translation). In prokaryotes, mRNAs are translated while they are transcribed. This allows communication between RNA polymerase, the multisubunit enzyme that catalyzes transcription, and the ribosome, which catalyzes translation. Coupling involves both direct physical interactions between RNA polymerase and the ribosome, as well as ribosome-induced changes to the structure and accessibility of the intervening mRNA that affect transcription.


See also