Tom Steitz, Nobel Laureate, Passes Away

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In summary, Nobel Laureate Tom Steitz (Chemistry, 2009) passed away a few days ago. He was known for his contributions in elucidating the structure of the ribosome, as well as other important biomolecular complexes involved in DNA replication, transcription, and translation. His wife, Joan Steitz, also received recognition for her work in the field of RNA biology. Steitz's lab also made a significant discovery in solving the structure of fatty acid synthetase (FAS), a complex involved in lipid metabolism, through an accidental encounter while attempting to crystallize another protein. This highlights Steitz's expertise in crystallography, being able to obtain crystals of a protein by chance.
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Very sad news. In addition to the ribosome, Steitz was helped solve the structure of a number of other important biomolecular complexes involved in DNA replication, transcription, and translation (the "central dogma" of biology). His wife, Joan Steitz, was recently awarded the Lasker-Koshland Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science

I remember reading one memorable paper from his lab in which they solved the structure of fatty acid synthetase (FAS), a large macromolecular complex involved in lipid metabolism. While scientists had been working on solving the structure since the 1970s, (finally achieving a low-resolution crystal structure in 2006), Steitz's group came across the enzyme in an unusual way:
We have now determined the atomic structure of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae FAS derived from two crystal forms of the enzyme that were obtained by a fortuitous accident. While attempting to crystallize the yeast 40S ribosomal subunit, we obtained instead these crystals of FAS, which cosediments at 40S with the small ribosomal subunit.

While many crystallographers can spend decades trying to get crystals of the protein they are studying, Steitz can get crystals by accident!
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What we call accident is usually the order of a higher level.

1. Who was Tom Steitz?

Tom Steitz was a renowned American biochemist and molecular biologist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 for his groundbreaking work on the structure and function of ribosomes.

2. When did Tom Steitz pass away?

Tom Steitz passed away on October 9th, 2018 at the age of 78.

3. What were Tom Steitz's major contributions to science?

Tom Steitz's major contributions to science include determining the first high-resolution structure of a ribosome, as well as further insights into its function and role in protein synthesis. He also made significant contributions to the field of X-ray crystallography, a technique used to determine the structure of molecules.

4. How did Tom Steitz's work impact the field of biochemistry?

Tom Steitz's work greatly advanced our understanding of the fundamental processes of protein synthesis and the role of ribosomes in this process. His research has also paved the way for the development of new antibiotics and treatments for diseases related to ribosome dysfunction.

5. How will Tom Steitz be remembered?

Tom Steitz will be remembered as a brilliant scientist who made groundbreaking discoveries in the field of biochemistry. He will also be remembered for his mentorship and dedication to teaching and inspiring future generations of scientists.

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