ASBMB Nobel Prize Winners

1989 - Sidney Altman



Sidney Altman (1939 - present) was awarded half the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of catalytic properties of RNA. Working separately from fellow Nobel Laureate Thomas R. Cech, Altman experimented with ribonuclease P (RNase P), an enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of RNA into smaller components, and showed that the RNA component of RNase P was sufficient for its observed catalytic activity. This meant that the RNA itself had catalytic properties. Before this finding, it was believed that that protein subunit of RNase P was responsible for catalysis. RNase P also exists in eukaryotic organisms, and Altman later discovered that the protein subunits of eukaryotic Rnase P are essential to its catalytic activity, in contrast to the bacterial RNase P.