Michael Rosbash, Former Embryology Course Faculty, Receives Nobel Prize

Michael Rosbash, Former Embryology Course Faculty, Receives Nobel Prize

Congratulations to Michael Rosbash of Brandeis University/Howard Hughes Medical Institute, who today was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries concerning the molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythm. Rosbash, who was on the faculty of the MBL Embryology course in 1976, 1979, 1981, 1983 and 1986 (and who delivered a Friday Evening Lecture at the MBL in 2013 on circadian rhythm, embedded below), shares the prize with Jeffrey C. Hall of University of Maine and Michael W. Young of Rockefeller University.

In introducing his Friday Evening Lecture, MBL President and Director Emeritus Joan Ruderman, who has known Rosbash since they were both graduate students at M.I.T., said, “It was clear to us even then that he was a very big thinker, and interested in lots of different things,” noting his equally important work on RNA processing in addition to his pioneering discoveries on the molecular foundations of circadian rhythm.

“Biological Time Travels: The Story of Circadian Rhythms,” MBL Friday Evening Lecture by Michael Rosbash, June 28, 2013.

In the 1980s, using fruit flies as a model organism, Rosbash, Hall and Young isolated a gene, “period,” that controls the biological clock, or normal daily biological rhythm. They showed that this gene encodes a protein that accumulates in the cell during the night, and is then degraded during the day. Subsequently, they identified additional protein components, exposing the mechanism governing the self-sustaining clockwork inside the cell.

“It is now recognized that biological clocks function by the same principles in cells of other multicellular organisms, including humans,” the Nobel Foundation wrote. “With exquisite precision, our inner clock adapts our physiology to the dramatically different phases of the day. The clock regulates critical functions such as behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism.”