Awardee 2003

Wolfgang P. Baumeister

for the Elucidation of the structure and mechanism of the proteasome



It has long been a dream of cell biologists to catch a glimpse of the supramolecular architecture inside living cells, hitherto largely an uncharted territory. Vital cellular functions are performed by ensembles of macromolecules - or complexes - but many of them exist only transiently or are held together by forces too weak to withstand conventional biochemical isolation and purification procedures. The development of cryoelectron tomography has made it possible to obtain three-dimensional images of whole ice-embedded cells or organelles with resolutions in the range of 5 nm, and with advanced instrumentation we are now entering the realm of molecular resolution. This allows the visualization of macromolecular complexes in an unperturbed functional environment. Such tomograms are essentially 3-D images of the cell‘s entire proteome, but exploitation of this imposing amount of information is confronted with technical problems. Sophisticated pattern recognition techniques are needed to retrieve the information about territorial distribution of macromolecules and their organization in functional neighborhoods, and thereby bridge the gap between molecular and cellular structural biology.

Wolfgang Baumeister became famous for his work on the proteasome, the molecular machine designed for the controlled degradation of intracellular proteins. His work paved the way for elucidating the structure of this large molecular machine and its enzymatic mechanism. More recently, Wolfgang Baumeister and his collaborators developed cryoelectron tomography that provides three-dimensional images of intact cells at high resolution and with it new vistas of their supramolecular architecture. The potential of this method for unraveling the network of molecular interactions that underlie higher cellular functions is huge, since a tomogram of a cell at high resolution is essentially a three-dimensional image of its entire proteome.


1973  University of Düsseldorf, Ph.D.
1978  Habilitation; venia legendi in Biophysics, ­University of Düsseldorf
1981-1982  Heisenberg Fellowship, Cavendish Lab., University of Cambridge, England
1983-1987 Group Leader, Max-Planck-Institute of Bio­chemistry, Martinsried
1987-present Professor (apl.), Technical University, Munich,  Chemistry Faculty
1988-present Director, Max-Planck-Institute of Biochemistry Head of the Department of Structural Biology
2000-present Honorary Professor, Technical University, Munich, Physics Faculty
   
Awards and Honors:
   
1982  Ernst-Ruska Prize
1988 EMBO Member
1998 Otto-Warburg-Medal
2000  Member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences
2000 Moore Distinguished Scholar, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California
2000  Max-Planck Research Award
2001  Prize of the Feldberg Foundation, Great Britain
2001  Fellow, German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
2001  Karl Heinz Beckurts-Prize
2002  Datta Lecture and Medal (FEBS)
2002  Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
2003  Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, Geneva, Switzerland

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