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Roger Kornberg Joins Father as Nobel Laureate

The Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded Wednesday to Roger Kornberg of Stanford University for his work on how cells use information in genes to produce proteins. He and his father Arthur Kornberg, also a Nobel laureate, discuss their achievements.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    For the Kornbergs, it's all in the genes. Today, Roger Kornberg of Stanford University won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for helping to unravel how cells made proteins using genetic information.

    In 1959, his father, Arthur, won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering how genetic information transfers from one DNA molecule to another. Both of them join us now.

    Let me start with the man of the day, Roger Kornberg. First, congratulations to you.

    ROGER KORNBERG, Winner, Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Thank you very much.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Could you explain to us in layman's terms what you discovered and why it's so important?

  • ROGER KORNBERG:

    I'll be glad to do so. I think laypeople will all know that DNA contains the instructions for the development, for the construction and the maintenance of a living organism, but the DNA by itself contains nothing more than information. The DNA alone is silent.

    The machinery that we have investigated for the past several decades gives the DNA information voice. It enables that information to become active and lead to the construction of the organism.

    The purpose of our work was to discover, unravel the complexity, ultimately to visualize directly the machinery that reads out the genetic information. The central component of that machinery, referred to as RNA polymerase, is itself a giant molecule made up of 30,000 atoms.

    In our work, we were able to determine the precise location of those 30,000 atoms and then go further, reveal, so obtain an additional picture of the molecule in action, as it reads out the information in DNA.

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