University of California, San Francisco
Election Year: 1981
Primary Section: 21, Biochemistry
Secondary Section: 22, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Membership Type: Member
As a biochemist, I have studied the mechanisms of two different reactions that are fundamental to the life of the cell. The first of these is DNA replication, the mechanism that allows a DNA molecule to form two DNA molecules, thereby producing two identical chromosomes from one. Through detailed studies of a model organism, the large virus known as bacteriophage T4, my laboratory was able to purify each of the seven proteins involved in catalyzing this reaction, mix them together, and thereby reconstitute the DNA replication process in a test tube. By analyzing the molecular events that occur, we found that these proteins form a large protein machine, which moves along the DNA molecule like a zipper, creating a Y-shaped structure known as a replication fork. More recently, I have also been trying to decipher how a complex network of filaments, called the cell cytoskeleton, organizes the interior space and the membrane of cells. The model organism being used for these studies is the early fruit fly (Drosophila) embryo, a giant cell that, like bacteriophage T4, is readily available to both biochemical and genetic analyses.