Roger Kornberg Awarded with Horwitz Prize

Roger D. Kornberg, Ph.D.
© Columbia University

“I’m pleased to receive this prestigious recognition, and am delighted to share the honor with some of the most distinguished scientific minds in the United States,” said Kornberg. “As a Horwitz Prize winner, I will be joining an outstanding group of the world’s leading scientists and scholars, and it’s truly an honor to be counted among them.” The genome is silent, Kornberg says, until molecular machines in the cell transform genomic code into proteins. But even though all cells in a multi-cellular organism contain the same genome, different types of cells look and act differently.

Normal skin, blood and brain cells vary from each other because each uses a different assortment of genes that are turned on and off at precise moments. Disease often occurs when genes are turned on or off at the wrong moments, so a better understanding of what controls gene expression may eventually lead to better ways to improve human health.

Kornberg's efforts to understand what controls gene expression have focused on the very first step in the transformation of genomic information into proteins. During transcription numerous molecules come together in a huge complex, called RNA polymerase II, to read the gene's DNA code and copy it onto a messenger RNA. The messenger RNA is later shipped outside the nucleus where the next steps occur.

Much of Kornberg's work over the last 30 years has revealed the identity of many of the molecules in the RNA polymerase II complex and many others that interact with the complex. In a technical tour de force he also determined what the entire complex looks like and how the different parts work together to create mRNA.; Source: Columbia University