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Roderick MacKinnon

  Roderick MacKinnon (born 19 February 1956 in Burlington, Massachusetts) is a professor of Molecular Neurobiology and Biophysics at Rockefeller University who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with Peter Agre in 2003 for his work on the structure and operation of ion channels.

Life and Work

Roderick MacKinnon grew up in Burlington and after graduating from high school, he attended the University of Massachusetts in Boston. After one year, transferred to Brandeis University in order to intensify his studies in science. There he received a bachelor's degree in biochemistry in 1978 while studying calcium transport over cell membranes for his honors thesis at Christopher Miller's laboratory. It was also at Brandeis where he met his future wife and working-colleague Alice Lee.

After receiving his degree from Brandeis, MacKinnon entered medical school at Tufts University. He got his M.D. in 1982 and received training in Internal Medicine at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. But he did not feel satisfied enough with the medical profession, so in 1986 he returned to Christopher Miller at Brandeis for postdoctoral studies. 1989 he was appointed assistant professor at Harvard University where he studied the interaction of the potassium channel with a specific toxin derived from scorpion venom, acquainting himself with methods of protein purification and X-ray crystallography.

In 1996 he moved to Rockefeller University as a professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology and Biophysics where he started to work on the structure of the potassium channel. These channels are of particular importance to the nervous system and the heart and enable potassium ions to cross the cell membrane. Before MacKinnon, the detailed molecular architecture of channels and the exact means by which they convey ions remained speculative. But in 1998, despite a barrier to the structural study of integral membrane proteins that had thwarted most attempts for decades, MacKinnon and colleagues unlocked the three-dimensional molecular structure of a potassium channel from bacteria with X-ray crystallography. This way, he was able to explain the selectivity of this channel for potassium ions - it lets only potassium ions pass while the much smaller sodium ions can not pass through. [1] [2] Science Magazine called the achievement "one of the 10 biggest science stories of 1998."

His prize-winning research was conducted primarily at the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) of Cornell University, and at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) of Brookhaven National Laboratory.

In 1999, MacKinnon shared the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research with Clay Armstrong and Bertil Hille - one of most distinguished honor for outstanding contributions to basic and clinical medical research. In 2000 he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and has received numerous other awards for his research, including the 2000 Rosenstiel Award and the 2001 Gairdner Foundation International Award. In 2003 he won the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

He is a member of the Alpha Omega Medical Honor Society, a PEW scholar in the BioMedical Sciences and the recipient of the McKnight Scholars Award, the Biophysical Society Young Investigator Award, the McKnight Investigator Award, the W. Alden Spencer Award and the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize.


  1. ^ MacKinnon Roderick, Steven L. Cohen, Anling Kuo, Alice Lee, Brian T. Chait: Structural Conservation in Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Potassium Channels. Science 3 April 1998: Vol. 280. no. 5360, pp. 106 - 109. PMID 9525854
  2. ^ Declan A. Doyle, João Morais Cabral, Richard A. Pfuetzner, Anling Kuo, Jacqueline M. Gulbis, Steven L. Cohen, Brian T. Chait, Roderick MacKinnon: The Structure of the Potassium Channel: Molecular Basis of K+ Conduction and Selectivity. Science 3 April 1998: Vol. 280. no. 5360, pp. 69 - 77. PMID 9525859
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Roderick_MacKinnon". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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