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C & EN, November, 20…Vol.2 (Kornberg’s Triumph?) November 23, 2006

Posted by thwalls in Blogroll.

You should have also noted the article, “Complexity to live by.” discussing this years Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the ellucidation of the Pol II crystal structure with co-crystallized DNA as it is being transcribed.  I will have to admit that I love a good crystal structure, especially one as magnitudinous as RNA Polymerase II.



 Sorry for the small pictures (The EMBO Journal (1998) 17, 2353–2358).

Anyway, the article is interesting and I highly suggest that you check it out (Science 2001, 292, 1863-1876) since this kind of work has a tendency to lead to novel drug targets.  Even though SYBYL is excellent if you can’t get the crystal structure, everyone likes to actually see what they’re trying to bind to…not just patches of computationally determined red, green, yellow, and blue space on a screen.  This leads into my complete lack of trust for things such as FlexX and flexible docking in general, but I think that’s a different topic for a different day. 

 More to the point, kudos to the Kornberg lab and all the grad students that slaved over the X-ray crystal data to unlock the first 20% of the structure. 

The one thing that I didn’t like about this article was that it threw a dead rat into the festivities by saying that Robert Roeder at Rockefelller University should have probably shared the award with him – even though it is something that I would whole heartedly agree with.  This is not to say that everyone on your acknowledgements, or everyone who helped advance your research should share in the work, but at least throw in the other guy who “[was] among the first to identify RNA pol II,” and “led the characterization of the activities of the polymerase in regulation of genes for decades.”

This kind of argument is not a new one to say the least, especially in this field.  Everyone should know about the Watson, Crick, and Wilson debacle for their Nobel Prize in “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material” (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1962/).  Rosalind Franklin, a crystallographer who actually performed the crystallography work and appeared with them in Nature, was never mentioned by the Nobel committee.  It’s also interesting to note that neither Watson nor Crick ever received permission from Franklin to use her crystallographic data from which the elucidation of the alpha helical structure of DNA was made.  So even though this is not exactly the same situation, some can definitely see the parallels…at least I can.

 So, congrats to the Kornberg Lab and my sympathies to the Roeder Lab – better luck next year.




1. C & EN, November, 20…Vol.2 (Kornberg’s Triumph?) - August 16, 2007

[…] written by thwalls […]

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