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Jerry A. Weisbach Lecture

The Rotary Mechanisms of ATP Synthase

Sir John Walker, F.R.S.
Director, Dunn Human Nutrition Unit
Medical Research Council
Cambridge University

DATE: October 20, 2000 PLACE: Caspary Auditorium ,
The Rockefeller University,
East 66th Street and York Avenue,
New York City
TIME: 3:15 p.m. Tea
3:45 p.m. Lecture

John Walker is director of the Medical Research Council’s Dunn Human Nutrition Unit at Cambridge University. Walker’s work focuses on the physical structure of enzymes, and how that structure determines the way enzymes work. In particular, Walker is interested in the enzymes that control energy metabolism. He shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Paul Boyer for their elucidation of the enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Walker’s early research in the mid-1970s analyzed the sequences of the proteins from the bacteriophage G4 and from mitochondria. This led to the discovery of triple over-lapping genes in G4 (with D. Shaw and B.G. Barrell) and to the discovery that subunits I and II of cytochrome c oxidase were encoded in the DNA in mitochondria. He also helped to uncover the modified genetic code in mitochondria.

During the work on mitochondria, he developed an interest in the enzyme complexes in the inner membrane of the organelle that carry out oxidative phosphorylation, and in 1978 he began a structural study of the ATP synthase from bovine heart mitochondria. This work eventually resulted in a complete sequence analysis of the complex and in an atomic resolution structure of the F1 catalytic domain of the enzyme.

Walker received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1964. Then he began research on peptide antibiotics with E.P. Abraham in the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford, and was awarded the D.Phil. degree in 1969. This was followed by a period of five years working abroad: from 1969 to 1971 at the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin, and from 1971 to 1974 in Paris. In 1974, he moved to the Protein and Nucleic Acid Chemistry Division of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, where he became a member of the scientific staff. He became senior scientist in 1982, received a special appointment (professorial grade) in 1987 and was named director of the Medical Research Council’s Dunn Human Nutrition Unit in 1998.

Walker was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1995. He was awarded the Johnson Foundation Prize by the University of Pennsylvania in 1994 and the CIBA Medal and Prize of the Biochemistry Society in 1996. In 1997, he was elected a Fellow of Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge, and became an Honorary Fellow of St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. He received a Knighthood in 1999 and was named an honorary member of the British Physical Society in 2000.

For additional information, please call Ms. Gloria Phipps at (212) 327-8967

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