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India born American bags Chemistry Nobel

doi:10.1038/nindia.2009.308 Published online 7 October 2009

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, India-born US citizen working at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK, shares this year's Nobel Prize for chemistry with fellow American Thomas Steitz and Israeli Ada Yonath.

The Nobel Committee announced today (October 7, 2009) that Ramakrishnan, a senior scientist and group leader at the structural studies division of MRC Laboratory, and his colleagues were awarded the prize for showing how the ribosome, which produces protein, functions at the atomic level.

All three have used a method called X-ray crystallography to map the position for each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that make up the ribosome, the Nobel committee said.

Born in 1952 in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, Ramakrishnan got his Ph.D in Physics from Ohio University, USA in 1976. Before that, he was a graduate student in biology at he Graduate University of California, San Diego. Ramakrishnan did his B.Sc in physics from Baroda University, India in 1971.

His work involves the structure and function of the ribosome, the large protein-RNA complex that synthesizes proteins using genetic instructions encoded in the mRNA template. A few years ago, his lab determined the complete atomic structure of the 30S subunit and its complexes with several antibiotics, initiation factor IF1, and cognate and near-cognate tRNA anticodon stem-loops complexed with mRNA in the A site.

"More recently, we have determined the high-resolution structure of the entire ribosome complexed with mRNA and tRNA. These studies have shed light on antibiotic function, and the mechanism of tRNA and mRNA recognition and decoding by the ribosome," Ramakrishnan says on his  website.

He was elected a foreign member of the Indian National Science Academy in 2008.