Marianne Grunberg-Manago

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Marianne Grunberg-Manago
Born (1921-01-06)January 6, 1921
Saint Petersburg, former Soviet Union
Died January 3, 2013(2013-01-03) (aged 91)
Paris, France
Nationality French
Fields Biochemistry

Marianne Grunberg-Manago (January 6, 1921 – January 3, 2013) was a Soviet-born French biochemist. Her work helped make possible key discoveries about the nature of the genetic code.

Early Life[edit]

Grunberg-Manago was born into a family of artists who adhered to the teachings of the Swiss educational reformer Johann Pestalozzi. When she was 9 months old, Grunberg-Manago's parents emigrated from the Soviet Union to France.

Education and Research[edit]

Grunberg-Manago studied biochemistry and, in 1955, while working in the lab of Spanish-America biochemist Severo Ochoa,[1] she discovered the first nucleic-acid-synthesizing enzyme.[2] Initially, everyone thought the new enzyme was an RNA polymerase used by E. coli cells to make long chains of RNA from separate nucleotides.[3] But although the new enzyme could link a few nucleotides together, the reaction was highly reversible and it later became clear that the enzyme, polynucleotide phosphorylase, usually catalyzes the breakdown of RNA, not its synthesis.[citation needed]

Nonetheless, the enzyme was extraordinarily useful and important. Almost immediately, Marshall Nirenberg and J. Heinrich Matthaei put it to use to form the first three-nucleotide RNA codons, which coded for the amino acid phenylalanine. This first step in cracking the genetic code entirely depended on the availability of Grunberg-Manago’s enzyme.

In 1959, Ochoa and Arthur Kornberg won the 1959 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for the synthesis of the nucleic acids RNA and DNA." She was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1978[4] and a Foreign Associate Member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1982.[5]

Grunberg-Manago was the first woman to direct the International Union of Biochemistry, and she was also president of the French Academy of Sciences from 1995 to 1996.[6]

Later Life and Death[edit]

Late in her career, Grunberg-Manago was named emeritus director of research at CNRS, France’s National Center for Scientific Research.[6]

Grunberg-Manago died in January, 2013, three days before her 92nd birthday.[7]


  1. ^ Grunberg-Manago, M. (1997). "Severo Ochoa. 24 September 1905--1 November 1993: Elected For.Mem.R.S. 1965". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 43: 351–310. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1997.0020.  edit
  2. ^ Grunberg-Manago, Marianne; Ortiz, P; Ochoa, S (April 1956). "Enzymic synthesis of polynucleotides. I. Polynucleotide phosphorylase of Azotobacter vinelandii.". Biochem Biophysica Acta 20 (1): 269–85. PMID 13315374. 
  3. ^ Grunberg-Manago, M.; Oritz, P. J.; Ochoa, S. (1955). "Enzymatic synthesis of nucleic acidlike polynucleotides". Science 122 (3176): 907–910. doi:10.1126/science.122.3176.907. PMID 13274047.  edit
  4. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter Gurl=". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 
  5. ^ "Marianne Grunberg-Manago". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved July 30, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Biography of Marianne Grunberg-Manago" (in French). French Academy of Sciences. February 22, 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "L'Académie des sciences a le regret de faire part du décès de Marianne Grunberg-Manago survenu à Paris le 3 janvier 2013." "Le 3 janvier, décès de Marianne Grunberg-Manago" (in French). French Academy of Sciences. January 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2013.