Sidney Altman


Sidney Altman

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Sidney Altman
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1989

Born: 7 May 1939, Montreal, Canada

Died: 5 April 2022, Rockleigh, NJ, USA

Affiliation at the time of the award: Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

Prize motivation: “for their discovery of catalytic properties of RNA”

Prize share: 1/2


Enzymes are substances that speed up the chemical processes in organisms' cells without being consumed. It was long thought that all enzymes were proteins. Sidney Altman and Thomas Cech demonstrated that RNA can also function as an enzyme. In 1978, Altman studied an enzyme taken from the E. coli bacteria that has the ability to cleave RNA. This enzyme was a combination of a protein and RNA. Altman discovered that the enzyme lost its ability to cleave if the RNA was removed from the protein. Later, he also succeeded in proving that RNA alone had the same ability to cleave as the enzyme.

To cite this section
MLA style: Sidney Altman – Facts. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2023. Mon. 2 Oct 2023. <>

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