1998Advanced TechnologyBiotechnology and Medical Technology
Kurt Wüthrich photo

Kurt Wüthrich

  • Switzerland / October 4, 1938
  • Structural Biologist
  • Professor, Molecular Biophysics and Chairman, Department of Biology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)

Outstanding Contribution to Biology through the Expansion of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy to the Structure Analyses of Biological Macromolecules in Water Solution, an Environment Similar to That in the Living Cell

Expanding the conventional nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technique, Dr. Wüthrich developed a method of determining the conformations of proteins, nucleic acids and other biomacromolecules as such in solutions or biomembranes, where they exhibit their function. This achievement made an unprecedented contribution to structural and molecular biology, representing a great advance in biotechnology.

Profile

Brief Biography

1938
Born in Aarberg, Switzerland
1962
Graduated from Licentiate in chemistry, physics and mathematics, University of Bern, Switzerland
1964
Ph. D. in chemistry, University of Basel, Switzerland
1972
Assistant Professor, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zürich
1980
Professor, Molecular Biophysics, ETH Zürich
1995
Chairman, Department of Biology, ETH Z rich

Selected Awards and Honors

1986
M daille P. Bruylants, Universit Catholique de Louvain
1990
Stein and Moore Award, the Protein Society
1992
Marcel Benoist Prize, The Swiss Confederation
1993
Prix Louis Jeantet de Mêdicine, Foundation Louis Jeantet, Genêve
1996
KajêLinderstr m-Lang Prize, Carlsberg Foundation, Copenhagen
Member, Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina
Member, Academia Europaca
Foreign Associate, US National Academy of Sciences
Honorary Member, Japanese Biochemical Society

Major Works

1978

Dynamic model of globular Protein Conformations based on NMR studies in solution, with G. Wagner, Nature 275, 1978.

1986

Studies by 1H nuclear magnetic resonance and distance geometry of the solution conformation of the -amylase inhibitor Tendamistat, A. D. Kline and others, J. Mol. Biol. 189, 1986.

1989

Protein structure determination in solution by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, Science 243, 1989.

1991

Protein hydration in aqueous solution, with G. Otting and other, Science 254, 1991.

1992

NMR determination of residual structure in a urea-denatured protein, the 434 repressor, with D. Neri and others, Science 257, 1992.

1996

NMR structure of the mouse prion protein domain PrP (121-231), with R. Riek and others, Nature 382, 1996.

1986

NMR of Proteins and Nucleic Acids, Wiley, New York, 1986.

Citation

Outstanding Contribution to Biology through the Expansion of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy to the Structure Analyses of Biological Macromolecules in Water Solution, an Environment Similar to That in the Living Cell

Expanding the conventional nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technique, Dr. Wüthrich developed a method of determining the conformations of proteins, nucleic acids and other biomacromolecules as such in solutions or biomembranes, where they exhibit their function. This achievement made an unprecedented contribution to the advance in structural and molecular biology.

Traditionally, structural biology had relied largely on X-ray crystallography, in which biomacromolecules are analyzed after crystallization; however, the conventional technique cannot analyze non-crystallizable substances, nor does it permit conformation analysis in solutions, where biomacromolecules exhibit their biological activity. Dr. Wüthrich developed a new technique for atomic-level determination of protein structures in solution, based on distance geometry, a unique idea for building conformations using atom-to-atom distance information based on the Nuclear Overhauser Effect (NOE) resulting from electron-nucleus interaction induced by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). This new technique is a result of multidisciplinary achievements, including new determination and analytical methods, computer-aided structural determination algorithms, and sophisticated graphic tools, and could not be realized without Dr. Wüthrich’s excellent talent for research. As many as 1,200 protein conformations have been determined by his NMR technique, accounting for one-fifth of the protein conformations that have been resolved to date.

Using the technique, he himself has determined the conformations of a wide variety of biologically important biomacromolecules, including DNA-binding proteins, pharmacologically active neuropeptides and cytokines. The recent determination of conformations of the prion protein, which is associated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and of the cyclosporin A-cyclophilin complex, which plays a significant role in immunosuppression, in particular, serves as a good example of the technique’s successful application in biology and medicine.

Besides his achievement in the development of the conformation determination technique, Dr. Wüthrich developed a technique for directly observing protein molecule movement and quantifying protein mobility. While conventional crystallography provides static data on proteins, the NMR method provides dynamic profiles of proteins in action on various time scales in aqueous solutions. The protein mobility thus observed represents new data on protein profiles, showing close correlation with enzyme activity and molecule recognition. This achievement has ensured access to very useful information for the functional analysis of new biomolecules, and has had major impact on the applications to protein engineering, such as drug design, thus making significant contributions to biotechnology.

In short, Dr. Wüthrich has established a new methodology for structural biology, a field of research into structure-function correlation in proteins and other biomolecules, and has made a breakthrough leading to elucidation of the mechanisms of complex biological phenomena, significantly contributing thereby to the advance in structural and molecular biology. For these reasons, the Inamori Foundation is pleased to bestow upon Dr. Wüthrich the 1998 Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology.

Lecture

Abstract of the Lecture

From Nature to Natural Science

I was born and raised in the rural environment of a small town in Switzerland, where my early childhood was spent in close contact with nature and I got used to detailed observation of plants and animals. My education added degrees in mathematics, physics, chemistry and physical education, and participation in competitive sports became an important hobby. My professional career led to a professorship in a technical university. Today I find myself in a hightech job, using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy for research in structural biology, and I am also the chairman of the Biology Department at my university. In this lecture I review some stations of my life, and reflect on the ways in which the different activities pursued over the years contributed to my development as a scientist and as a human being.

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Workshop

Workshop

NMR in Structural Biology-History and Perspectives

date
Thursday, November 12, 1998
palce
Kyoto International Conference Center
Coordinators:
Kenichi Matsubara, Chairman, the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Advanced Technology; Professor, Nara Institute of Science and Technology Yoshimasa Kyogoku, Director, Institute for Protein Research, Osaka University
Moderator:
Yoshimasa Kyogoku

Program

13:00
Opening
Greetings Toyomi Inamori
Managing Director, the Inamori Foundation
Greetings Kenichi Matsubara
13:15
Introduction of Laureate Yoshimasa Kyogoku
13:20
Commemorative Lecture Kurt Wüthrich, Laureate
"NMR Spectroscopy and Structural Biology"
14:10
Chairperson:Fuyuhiko Inagaki
Chief of Molecular Physiology, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science
Lecture Yoji Arata
Director, Water Research Institute
"Professor Wüthrich's Achievements: Significance and Impacts in Structural Biology"
Lecture Masatsune Kainosho
Professor, Graduate School of Science, Tokyo Metropolitan University
"Perspectives of NMR Spectroscopy"
15:10
15:30
Chairperson:Nobuhiro Go
Professor, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University
Lecture Kuniaki Nagayama
Professor, National Institute for Physiological Sciences
"My Three Years in Zurich-A Big Bang of Protein 2D NMR"
16:00
Chairperson:Yoshifumi Nishimura
Professor, Graduate School of Integrated Science,Yokohama City University
Lecture Masahiro Shirakawa
Associate Professor, Nara Institute of Science and Technology
"Molecular Biology and NMR"
Lecture Shigeyuki Yokoyama
Professor, Graduate School of Science, the the University of Tokyo
"Structural Genom Science by NMR"
17:00
Discussion
17:25
Closing Remarks Kenichi Matsubara
17:30
Closing
PAGETOP