Tom Steitz passes away

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  • #2
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
2019 Award
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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  • #3
Sanborn Chase
Gold Member
What we call accident is usually the order of a higher level.