Timothy Hunt

 

HuntTimothy Hunt

British biochemist Timothy Hunt was awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the Cyclin protein family, with Paul Nurse and Leland H. Hartwell. In 1991 he became a member of the British Royal Society and later a member of the American Academy of Sciences. In 2006 he was awarded the Royal Society’s Royal Medal and in the same year he was knighted by the queen.

He began his studies in 1961 at Clare College of the University of Cambridge, where he was mainly studying biochemistry. Among his teachers was the Nobel laureate to be Sydney Brenner. He began his scientific career at the Department of Biochemistry of the University of Cambridge, where he studied protein translation. His first thesis was written under the supervision of Asher Korner about haemoglobin synthesis and hem deficiency.

He earned his PhD degree at the University of Cambridge in 1968 and returned to New York City to Yeshiva University, where he had previously worked on haemoglobin synthesis as a colleague of Irving London. According to their observations, besides hem deficiency, oxidized glutathione and double stranded RNA also inhibit the protein synthesis of reticulocytes. Then he returned to England, where (with some former classmates) he discovered that the binding of Met-tRNA to the 40S ribosome subunit is blocked in the presence of the Hunt-observed substances (glutathione, double-stranded RNA). Further studies proved that the mentioned inhibitors were protein kinases.

From the late 70s he held summer courses in Massachusetts at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, where fertilized sea urchin eggs introduced a new model for his protein synthesis studies. His research focused on the control of maternal mRNA translation, and the results proved that the inhibition of protein synthesis inhibits cell division itself. After many years of hard work he managed to describe the cyclin proteins, which are essential for the regulation of cell division, moreover, the same protein family was detected in the cell division of a vertebrate animal the clawed frog (Xenopus).

In 2001, his work was acknowledged with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his outstanding results in cell biology and cell differentiation, the discovery of the cyclin protein family and the cyclin-dependent protein kinases.

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