ASBMB Nobel Prize Winners

1972 - Christian B. Anfinsen



Christian Boehmer Anfinsen, Jr. (1916 – 1995) received one-half of the 1972 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for research clarifying the relationship between the molecular structure of proteins and their biological functions.  Anfinsen found that ribonuclease, an enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of DNA into smaller components, completely loses its enzymatic activity in an aqueous solution of concentrated guanidine hypochloride containing beta-mercaptoethanol.  But after exposing the solution to air and after removing the guanidine hypochloride, the ribonuclease spontaneously reoxidized and regained its full enzymatic activity. This discovery suggested that the way a protein folds is encoded at the molecular level, which in turn is determined by DNA.