In yeast, the enzyme that transcribes the protein-making instructions encoded in DNA consists of roughly 30,000 atoms. Five years ago, Roger D. Kornberg published a solo portrait and an action shot of this molecular machinery in atomic detail.
Last week, Kornberg, of the Stanford University School of Medicine, was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for those images, which were the product of nearly 2 decades of research in his laboratory on the enzyme called RNA polymerase.
Working out the structure of RNA polymerase was "a marvelous achievement," says James T. Kadonaga, a biochemist at the University of California, San Diego. "It's one piece of a much larger puzzle, but an extremely important piece."