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Sidney Altman

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Sidney Altman

Born 7 May 1939 (1939-05-07) (age 81)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Nationality Canada & American (since 1984)
Fields Molecular biology
Alma mater MIT, University of Colorado at Boulder
Known for Ribozymes
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1989)

Sidney Altman (born May 7, 1939) is a Canadian-American molecular biologist.[1][2] He is currently 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's Nobel Prize work came with the analysis of the catalytic properties of the ribozyme RNase P.[3] 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.[4]

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.[4]


  1. Sidney Altman.
  2. Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, 1901–1992. American Chemical Society and Chemical Heritage Foundation. 1994. p. 737. ISBN 0-8412-2459-5 . Retrieved 2011-09-11.
  3. RNase P means "ribonuclease particle", which is a type of enzyme built of an RNA part and a protein part.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Newton, Carolyn D. (1990). "Altman, Sidney". Encyclopædia Britannica 1990 Britannica Book of the Year. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica. 81. 

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This person won a Nobel Prize
[[Category:1939 births