ASBMB Nobel Prize Winners

1968 – Robert W. Holley



Robert William Holley (1922 – 1993) was awarded the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with Har Gobind Khorana and Marshall Warren Nirenberg, for describing the structure of alanine transfer RNA, a small RNA chain that transfers alanine to a growing polypeptide chain inside a ribosome during translation of mRNA into protein. By 1960, Holley and others had shown that transfer RNAs were involved in the assembly of amino acids into proteins. Holley and colleagues then developed techniques to isolate transfer RNAs from cells, and, by 1965, he had determined the composition of the transfer RNA that incorporates alanine into proteins. This was the first nucleotide sequence of an RNA ever determined.