ASBMB Nobel Prize Winners

1959 - Arthur Kornberg




Arthur Kornberg (1918-present) was awarded half the 1959 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discovering how DNA molecules are duplicated in bacteria and for reconstructing this duplication process in the test tube. He first studied the enzymatic synthesis of coenzymes and inorganic pyrophosphate and the biosynthesis of nucleic acids and DNA. After elucidating key steps in the pathways of pyrimidine and purine synthesis -- including the discovery of 5'-phosphoribosyl-1-pyrophospate (PRPP) as an intermediate -- he found the enzyme that assembles nucleic acids into DNA, now known as DNA polymerase I. Kornberg later used DNA polymerase to assemble a 5000-nucleotide DNA chain identical in form, composition, and genetic activity as DNA from a natural virus called φ-X174. This was the first time a biochemist produced an active virus in a scientific laboratory.