Chaperonin-mediated Protein FoldingWe have been studying chaperonins these past twenty years through an initial discovery of an action in protein folding, analysis of structure, and elucidation of mechanism. Some of the highlights of these studies were presented recently upon sharing the honor of the 2013 Herbert Tabor Award with my early collaborator, Ulrich Hartl, at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Boston. Here, some of the major findings are recounted, particularly recognizing my collaborators, describing how I met them and how our great times together propelled our thinking and experiments.
The Tryptophan Synthase α2β2 Complex: A Model for Substrate Channeling, Allosteric Communication, and Pyridoxal Phosphate CatalysisI reflect on my research on pyridoxal phosphate (PLP) enzymes over fifty-five years and on how I combined research with marriage and family. My Ph.D. research with Esmond E. Snell established one aspect of PLP enzyme mechanism. My postdoctoral work first with Hans L. Kornberg and then with Alton Meister characterized the structure and function of another PLP enzyme, l-aspartate β-decarboxylase. My independent research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 1966 has focused on the bacterial tryptophan synthase α2β2 complex.
Translational Control of Protein Synthesis: The Early YearsFor the past fifty-five years, much of my research has focused on the function and biogenesis of red blood cells, including the cloning and study of many membrane proteins such as glucose and anion transporters and the erythropoietin receptor. We have also elucidated the mechanisms of membrane insertion, folding, and maturation of many plasma membrane and secreted proteins. Despite all of this work and more, I remain extremely proud of our very early work on the regulation of mRNA translation: work on bacteriophage f2 RNA in the 1960s and on translation of α- and β-globin mRNAs in the early 1970s.
Crystallography, Evolution, and the Structure of VirusesMy undergraduate education in mathematics and physics was a good grounding for graduate studies in crystallographic studies of small organic molecules. As a postdoctoral fellow in Minnesota, I learned how to program an early electronic computer for crystallographic calculations. I then joined Max Perutz, excited to use my skills in the determination of the first protein structures. The results were even more fascinating than the development of techniques and provided inspiration for starting my own laboratory at Purdue University.