Robert W. Holley
Born: 28 January 1922, Urbana, IL, USA
Died: 11 February 1993, Los Gatos, CA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
Prize motivation: "for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis"
Field: genetics, molecular biology
Prize share: 1/3
In the 1950s, it was established that genetic information is transferred from DNA to RNA, to protein. A sequence of three nucleotides in DNA - known as a codon - corresponds to a particular amino acid in a protein. The proteins are formed in what are known as ribosomes, which lie outside the cell nucleus. The transportation of amino acids to these ribosomes takes place with the help of a particular kind of RNA called transfer RNA or "tRNA". There exists a special tRNA molecule for each codon. Robert Holley was the first person to successfully isolate tRNA and, in 1964, was also able to map its structure.