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Sidney Altman facts for kids

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Sidney Altman
Sidney Altman crop.jpg
Altman in 2012
Born (1939-05-07)May 7, 1939
Died April 5, 2022(2022-04-05) (aged 82)
Nationality Canadian & American
Alma mater MIT, University of Colorado at Boulder
Known for Ribozymes
Spouse(s) Ann Korner (m. 1972; 2 children)
Awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1989)
Lomonosov Gold Medal (2016)
Scientific career
Fields Molecular biology
Doctoral advisor Leonard Lerman

Sidney Altman (May 7, 1939 – April 5, 2022) was a Canadian-American molecular biologist. He was a Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Chemistry at Yale University. In 1989 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Thomas Cech for their work on the catalytic properties of RNA. Altman is of Jewish descent.

Works

Altman's Nobel Prize work came with the analysis of the catalytic properties of the ribozyme RNase P. RNase P is a ribonucleoprotein particle, part RNA and part protein. Originally it was thought that, in the bacterial RNase P complex, the protein subunit was responsible for the catalytic activity of the complex.

During experiments in which the complex was taken apart and put together in test tubes, Altman and his group discovered a remarkable thing. The RNA component, in isolation, was enough for the observed catalytic activity of the enzyme. This was remarkable because, previously, it was thought that only enzymes could catalyse reactions in living cells. Altman's research showed that RNA itself had catalytic properties. This was the discovery that earned him the Nobel prize.

Although the RNase P complex also exists in eukaryotic organisms, Altman's later work showed that in eukaryotes the protein subunits are essential to the catalytic activity, in contrast to the bacterial RNase P.

Death

Altman died on April 5, 2022 in Rockleigh, New Jersey after a long illness at the age of 82.

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