Jack D. Griffith is best known for using high-resolution electron microscopy to visualize protein-DNA interactions. Using methods he developed, Griffith visualized the first defined DNA-protein complex, visualized nucleosomes for the first time where their DNA content could be calculated, and later demonstrated that the human telomere ends in large duplex loops. His wide-ranging studies and photographic images of DNA have impacted topics of DNA structure, replication, recombination and repair. Griffith grew up in Alaska, and received his bachelor?s degree in physics in 1964 at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and his doctorate in 1969 at Caltech. Following a postdoctoral fellowship with Arthur Kornberg in the Biochemistry Department at Stanford University, Griffith joined the Lineberger Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill where he is a Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Microbiology and Immunology and Biochemistry and Biophysics. Griffith has received numerous awards and honors, including receiving the Herbert A. Sober award from the ASBMB in 2002, election into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005, was awarded the Grand Gold medal of Comenius University in 2006, and in 2018 was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Jack Griffith's laboratory is interested in how proteins arrange large DNA molecules during transactions that include replication, recombination and repair. A central tool used to study these events involves the application of high resolution tungsten metal coating of DNA-protein complexes to allow their visualization by electron microscopy. This technique, developed and refined by Griffith is coupled with parallel biochemical studies, and specific tagging of key components. Early work by Griffith involved visualization of DNA polymerase I bound to DNA, and the SV40 minichromosome which made it possible to deduce the DNA content in each particle later termed nucleosomes. In 1999 the combination of EM and cell fractionation was used to show that mammalian telomeres are arranged into large duplex loops. Current interests in the Griffith laboratory focus on understanding the detailed architecture of the telomere as it is arranged by the shelterin proteins and the telomeric RNA transcripts. The laboratory continues work on the replication of the Herpesviruses including HSV-1 and KSHV with emphasis on understanding how the viral replication factors arrange the architecture of a moving DNA replication fork as well as their individual biochemical activities. Other studies involve analysis of the replication and organization of mitochondrial DNA.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 21: Biochemistry