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Roger D. Kornberg
Roger Kornberg in 2006, at the Fairchild Auditorium, Stanford University
Born April 24, 1947 (1947-04-24) (age 74)
Nationality United States
Alma mater Harvard University;
Stanford University
Known for Transmission of genetic information from DNA to RNA
Awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Scientific career
Fields Molecular biology
Institutions Stanford University,
Laboratory of Molecular Biology,
Harvard Medical School

Roger David Kornberg (born (1947-04-24)April 24, 1947) is an American biochemist and Nobel prize winner. Kornberg got the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2006 for studying eukaryote transcription (the copying of information from DNA to RNA).

Kornberg is a professor of Structural Biology at Stanford University School of Medicine. His father, Arthur Kornberg, was also a professor at Stanford University, and got the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1959.

Early life

Kornberg was born in St. Louis, Missouri to a Jewish family. He was the first of three children born to Arthur Kornberg and his wife, Sylvy. The parents worked together as biochemists. Roger Kornberg earned his bachelors degree from Harvard University in 1967 and his PhD from Stanford University in 1972. He then became a Fellow at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the University of Cambridge, England.

Important studies

All heredity is controlled by genes. For the cells to make use of the information in the genes, a copy of part of the gene must be made. The copying is called transcription. Transcription makes an RNA copy of part of the DNA. The RNA is moved out of the cell nucleus, to ribosomes, where it does its work. This is called messenger RNA and it gives the amino acid sequence for protein production. This second process is called translation. It works in all eukaryotes, including all plants and animals.

Kornberg worked with Aaron Klug and Francis Crick at the MRC in the 1970s. He discovered the nucleosome, a very important protein structure in chromosomes. Nucleosomes form the basic repeating units of eukaryotic chromatin. This packs the large eukaryotic genomes into the nucleus and allows it to be controlled.

Kornberg made the discovery that signals to the RNA are made by a complex of proteins that they called mediator. The Nobel Prize committee said, "the great complexity of eukaryotic organisms is enabled by the fine interplay between tissue-specific substances, enhancers in the DNA and mediator. The discovery of mediator is therefore a true milestone in the understanding of the transcription process".

After long effort, Kornberg was able to use X-ray crystallography to take 3D pictures of RNA molecules, lipids and proteins. With these studies, Kornberg has created a picture of how DNA works. The Nobel Prize committee said, "the truly revolutionary aspect of the picture Kornberg has created is that it captures the process of transcription in full flow. What we see is an RNA-strand being constructed, and hence the exact positions of the DNA, polymerase and RNA during this process".

In 1959, Roger Kornberg's father, Arthur Kornberg, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for studies of how genetic information moves from one DNA molecule to another. This is called DNA replication. Arthur Kornberg found the first enzyme that could make DNA. This was the first known enzyme to take its instructions from a DNA copy. Roger Kornberg's younger brother, Thomas Bill Kornberg, discovered DNA polymerases II and III in 1970 and is now a geneticist at the University of California, San Francisco. All three Kornbergs have worked to understand how genetic information is used in cells. Arthur and Roger Kornberg are the sixth father and son to win Nobel Prizes.


Professor Kornberg has received these awards:

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