Janet Thornton

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Janet Thornton
Plos thornton.jpg
Janet Thornton
Born Janet Maureen Thornton
(1949-05-23) 23 May 1949 (age 65)
Nationality British
Alma mater
Thesis The conformation of dinucleotides (1975)
Doctoral advisor Rachel Webster[2]
Doctoral students
Other notable students Sarah Teichmann (postdoc)[18][19]
Known for
Notable awards

Dame Janet Maureen Thornton, DBE, FRS FMedSci (born 23 May 1949) is a British scientist, and Director of the European Bioinformatics Institute.[21] She is one of the world’s leading researchers in structural bioinformatics, using computational methods to understand protein structure and function.[2][22][23][24] Her work is highly interdisciplinary, interfacing with structural biology, bioinformatics, biological chemistry and chemoinformatics, amongst others. She was an early pioneer in structure validation for protein crystallography, developing the widely used ProCheck software.[25] Together with Christine Orengo, she introduced the CATH[26] classification of protein structure.[1][18][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34]


After graduating in physics from the University of Nottingham, Thornton completed a master's degree in biophysics at King's College London, and a PhD in Biophysics at the National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London in 1973.[35]


After her PhD, she worked in molecular biophysics with David Chilton Phillips at the University of Oxford.[36][37] In 1978, she returned to the National Institute for Medical Research, and following that took up to a Fellowship at Birkbeck College, part of the University of London. In 1990 she was appointed Professor and Director of the Biomolecular Structure and Modeling Unit in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University College London and later also was appointed to the Bernal Chair in the Crystallography Department at Birkbeck College.

Since 2001 she has been Director of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), on the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus at Hinxton near Cambridge. She was an organiser of the Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) and European Conference on Computational Biology (ECCB) joint Conference in Glasgow in 2004.[38] In January 2014, she announced her intention to step down as Director of EBI from July 2015.

From 2008 to 2012, she co-ordinated the four year preparatory phase of the European life sciences data infrastructure ELIXIR.[20] As of 2013 she remains on the ELIXIR board as one of EMBL's scientific delegates.[39]

Awards and honours[edit]

Thornton was elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1999.[40] She became a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) in 2000, a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2003 and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2014. Thornton is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge.[41] Thornton's nomination for the Royal Society reads

The Times named Thonton number 86 of their "Eureka 100" British scientists in 2010.[43] Thornton was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2000 and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to bioinformatics.[44]


  1. ^ a b List of publications from Google Scholar
  2. ^ a b Anonymous (2012). "Women in Science: Janet Thornton". Genome Biology 13 (3): 148–201. doi:10.1186/gb4005. 
  3. ^ Fischer, Julia (2011). Characterisation, Classification and Conformational Variability of Organic Enzyme Cofactors (Ph.D. thesis). University of Cambridge. 
  4. ^ Fischer, J. D.; Holliday, G. L.; Thornton, J. M. (2010). "The CoFactor database: Organic cofactors in enzyme catalysis". Bioinformatics 26 (19): 2496–2497. doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btq442. PMC 2944199. PMID 20679331. 
  5. ^ Freilich, Shiri (2006). Towards Relating the Evolution of the Gene Repertoire in Mammals to Tissue Specialisation (Ph.D. thesis). University of Cambridge. 
  6. ^ Freilich, S.; Massingham, T.; Blanc, E.; Goldovsky, L.; Thornton, J. M. (2006). "Relating tissue specialization to the differentiation of expression of singleton and duplicate mouse proteins". Genome Biology 7 (10): R89. doi:10.1186/gb-2006-7-10-r89. PMC 1794571. PMID 17029626. 
  7. ^ Gutteridge, Alex (2005). Understanding the Relationship Between Enzyme Structure and Catalysis (Ph.D. thesis). University of Cambridge. 
  8. ^ Gutteridge, A.; Thornton, J. (2005). "Conformational Changes Observed in Enzyme Crystal Structures upon Substrate Binding". Journal of Molecular Biology 346 (1): 21–28. doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2004.11.013. PMID 15663924. 
  9. ^ Kahraman, Abdullah (2009). The Geometry and Physicochemistry of Protein Binding Sites and Ligands and their Detection in Electron Density Maps (Ph.D. thesis). University of Cambridge. 
  10. ^ Kahraman, A.; Morris, R. J.; Laskowski, R. A.; Favia, A. D.; Thornton, J. M. (2010). "On the diversity of physicochemical environments experienced by identical ligands in binding pockets of unrelated proteins". Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics 78 (5): 1120–1136. doi:10.1002/prot.22633. PMID 19927322. 
  11. ^ Hubbard, Simon Jeremy (1991). Analysis of protein-protein molecular recognition (Ph.D. thesis). University College London. 
  12. ^ Hubbard, S. J.; Campbell, S. F.; Thornton, J. M. (1991). "Molecular recognition. Conformational analysis of limited proteolytic sites and serine proteinase protein inhibitors". Journal of Molecular Biology 220 (2): 507–30. PMID 1856871. 
  13. ^ Pearl, Frances Mary Genevieve (1998). Protein structural analysis : helices and their interactions (Ph.D. thesis). University College London. 
  14. ^ Dr Frances Pearl, University of Sussex
  15. ^ Pearl, F. M.; Bennett, C. F.; Bray, J. E.; Harrison, A. P.; Martin, N; Shepherd, A; Sillitoe, I; Thornton, J; Orengo, C. A. (2003). "The CATH database: An extended protein family resource for structural and functional genomics". Nucleic Acids Research 31 (1): 452–5. doi:10.1093/nar/gkg062. PMC 165509. PMID 12520050. 
  16. ^ Torrance, James (2007). The geometry and evolution of catalytic sites and metal binding sites (Ph.D. thesis). University of Cambridge. 
  17. ^ Torrance, J. W.; Holliday, G. L.; Mitchell, J. B. O.; Thornton, J. M. (2007). "The Geometry of Interactions between Catalytic Residues and their Substrates". Journal of Molecular Biology 369 (4): 1140–1152. doi:10.1016/j.jmb.2007.03.055. PMID 17466330. 
  18. ^ a b Marx, V. (2014). "The Author File: Janet Thornton". Nature Methods 11 (2): 115. doi:10.1038/nmeth.2831. 
  19. ^ Teichmann, S. A.; Rison, S. C.; Thornton, J. M.; Riley, M; Gough, J; Chothia, C (2001). "The evolution and structural anatomy of the small molecule metabolic pathways in Escherichia coli". Journal of Molecular Biology 311 (4): 693–708. doi:10.1006/jmbi.2001.4912. PMID 11518524. 
  20. ^ a b Crosswell, L. C.; Thornton, J. M. (2012). "ELIXIR: A distributed infrastructure for European biological data". Trends in Biotechnology 30 (5): 241–242. doi:10.1016/j.tibtech.2012.02.002. PMID 22417641. 
  21. ^ Janet Thornton's homepage at EMBL-EBI
  22. ^ Thornton Research Group Page
  23. ^ Search Results for author Thornton JM on PubMed.
  24. ^ Zagorski, N. (2005). "Profile of Janet M. Thornton". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102 (35): 12296–12298. Bibcode:2005PNAS..10212296Z. doi:10.1073/pnas.0505819102. PMC 1194944. PMID 16118281. 
  25. ^ Laskowski, R. A.; MacArthur, M. W.; Moss, D. S.; Thornton, J. M. (1993). "PROCHECK: A program to check the stereochemical quality of protein structures". Journal of Applied Crystallography 26 (2): 283. doi:10.1107/S0021889892009944. 
  26. ^ Orengo, C. A.; Michie, A. D.; Jones, S.; Jones, D. T.; Swindells, M. B.; Thornton, J. M. (1997). "CATH – a hierarchic classification of protein domain structures". Structure 5 (8): 1093–1109. doi:10.1016/S0969-2126(97)00260-8. PMID 9309224. 
  27. ^ Sibanda, B. L.; Blundell, T. L.; Thornton, J. M. (1989). "Conformation of beta-hairpins in protein structures. A systematic classification with applications to modelling by homology, electron density fitting and protein engineering". Journal of Molecular Biology 206 (4): 759–77. doi:10.1016/0022-2836(89)90583-4. PMID 2500530. 
  28. ^ Thornton, J. M.; Singh, J; Campbell, S; Blundell, T. L. (1988). "Protein-protein recognition via side-chain interactions". Biochemical Society transactions 16 (6): 927–30. PMID 3224756. 
  29. ^ Blundell, T. L.; Sibanda, B. L.; Sternberg, M. J.; Thornton, J. M. (1987). "Knowledge-based prediction of protein structures and the design of novel molecules". Nature 326 (6111): 347–52. doi:10.1038/326347a0. PMID 3550471. 
  30. ^ Janet Thornton from the Scopus bibliographic database.
  31. ^ Blundell, T; Barlow, D; Borkakoti, N; Thornton, J (1983). "Solvent-induced distortions and the curvature of alpha-helices". Nature 306 (5940): 281–3. doi:10.1038/306281a0. PMID 6646210. 
  32. ^ Janet Thornton publications from Europe PubMed Central
  33. ^ Reeves, G. A.; Eilbeck, K.; Magrane, M.; O'Donovan, C.; Montecchi-Palazzi, L.; Harris, M. A.; Orchard, S.; Jimenez, R. C.; Prlic, A.; Hubbard, T. J. P.; Hermjakob, H.; Thornton, J. M. (2008). "The Protein Feature Ontology: A tool for the unification of protein feature annotations". Bioinformatics 24 (23): 2767. doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btn528.  edit
  34. ^ Rahman, S. A.; Cuesta, S. M.; Furnham, N.; Holliday, G. L.; Thornton, J. M. (2014). "EC-BLAST: A tool to automatically search and compare enzyme reactions". Nature Methods 11 (2): 171. doi:10.1038/nmeth.2803. 
  35. ^ Thornton, Janet (1975). The conformation of dinucleotides (PhD thesis). King's College London. 
  36. ^ Thornton, J. M.; Bayley, P. M. (1976). "Conformational energy calculations for dinucleotide molecules. A systematic study of dinucleotide conformation, with application to diadenosine pyrophosphate". Biopolymers 15 (5): 955–975. doi:10.1002/bip.1976.360150511. PMID 177120. 
  37. ^ Perkins, W. J.; Piper, E. A.; Thornton, J. (1976). "Computer techniques for conformational studies of biological molecules". Computers in Biology and Medicine 6 (1): 23–31. doi:10.1016/0010-4825(76)90034-2. PMID 1253578. 
  38. ^ ISMB-ECCB 2004
  39. ^ http://www.elixir-europe.org/about/elixirs-leadership
  40. ^ Why Prof. Thornton was awarded the FRS[dead link]
  41. ^ Churchill College: List of Fellows
  42. ^ "EC/1999/34: Thornton, Janet M Library and Archive Catalogue". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2014-02-18. 
  43. ^ Eureka 100: the people that matter
  44. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60173. p. 6. 16 June 2012.