Kurt Wuthrich – pioneer in NMR of biological macromolecules

Kurt Wuthrich – pioneer in NMR of biological macromolecules

Kurt Wuthrich – pioneer in NMR of biological macromolecules

Biography & Contributions

Kurt Wuthrich is a Swiss chemist/biophysicist and Nobel Chemistry laureate born on October 04, 1938. Wuthrich is best known for his contributions towards NMR methods for studying biological macromolecules.

He was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University in 1991, the Otto Warburg Medal in 1999 and half of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2002.

Wuthrich has studied molecular structural biology and structural genomics, and developed the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) method for determining the three-dimensional structure of proteins and nucleic acids in an artificial solution that closely resembles the conditions found in living cells.

With his colleagues, he has resolved numerous NMR structures of proteins and nucleic acids, including prion proteins from numerous species and peptidylprolyl isomerase A (cyclophilin A), also known as PPIA, a regulatory gene found in humans and other mammals.

He has also studied the biology, structure and function of proteins and nucleic acids; development of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques for macromolecular structure determination in solution and for studies of intermolecular interactions, applications in structuralgenomics, proteomics and biomedical research.

He also showed how to use that information to determine distances between numerous pairs of hydrogen nuclei and thereby build up a three-dimensional picture of the molecule.

Wuthrich’s solution, called sequential assignment, sorts out the tangle by methodically matching up each NMR signal with the corresponding hydrogen nucleus in the protein being analyzed.

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Method

Nuclear magnetic resonance is a physical phenomenon in which nuclei in a magnetic field absorb and re-emit electromagnetic radiation. It is also routinely used in advanced medical imaging techniques, such as in magnetic resonance imaging.

It is a powerful technique that can provide detailed information on the topology, dynamics and three-dimensional structure of molecules in solution and the solid state. NMR spectroscopy is used to unambiguously identify known and novel compounds, and as such, is usually required by scientific journals for identity confirmation of synthesized new compounds.

Biological Macromolecule

Macromolecule is a very large molecule commonly created by polymerization of smaller subunits. In biochemistry, macromolecules are the three conventional biopolymers i.e., nucleic acids, proteins, and carbohydrates. Other types of macromolecules include non-polymeric molecules with large molecular mass such as lipids and macrocycles.

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