Douglas Youvan

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Douglas Youvan
Douglas Youvan, 2010
Born (1955-01-29) January 29, 1955 (age 69)
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
Known forBiophysics of photosynthesis and evolution; discrete mathematics
Scientific career
InstitutionsMIT and Kairos Scientific Inc.

Douglas Charles Youvan (born January 29, 1955) is an American scientist.


Youvan received an associate degree in electronics and a bachelor's degree in biology from Pittsburg State University.[citation needed] He received his Ph.D. degree in biophysics from UC Berkeley.

Youvan was an associate professor of chemistry at MIT, where he specialized in the study of photosynthesis, specifically the spectral analysis of photosynthetic bacteria. Youvan, along with Mary M. Yang, developed instrumentation to study the spectra of bacteria directly from a petri dish. Their technology was later employed by NASA.[1]

He founded Karios Scientific Inc. together with Mary M. Yang. Due to a docketing error, Kairos lost its patent rights to KCAT, an instrument used for screening enzyme kinetics on microcolonies. Kairos' lawsuit against Fish and Richardson ends with California Supreme Court case S141615, with a remand and instructions resulting in a $34.5 million award to Kairos. The Wayback Machine indicates the extensive Kairos website has been thoroughly archived and that it operated from 1996 to 2013. As of early 2014, Kairos' online journal, Biotechnology et alia, is still operational and carries several of Youvan's publications.

Youvan's work on proteins that interact with light is referenced in two Nobel Prize Lectures: by Roger Y. Tsien on GFP and by Diesenhofer and Michel for photosynthetic reaction centers. According to Google Scholar, as of 2018, Youvan is referenced in 5900 other publications.

Research focus[edit]

In his 1981 Ph.D. thesis, Youvan found inhibitors (hypermodified nucleosides) of retroviral reverse transcriptase present in ribosomal RNA.[2][3]

In a 1984 publication[4] with John E. Hearst, and in collaboration with Barry L. Marrs, Youvan published the nucleotide and deduced protein sequence for the photosynthetic reaction center – the proteins that convert light to chemical energy in photosynthetic organisms. This work correctly predicted the secondary structure of the 11 transmembrane helices of the reaction center as confirmed by X-ray crystallography. In 1987 Youvan and E. Bylina constructed the first site-directed mutants of bacterial reaction centers.[5] Later collaborative work with ultra-fast laser laboratories helped yield evidence for a vibrational coherence in the sub-picosecond processes of photosynthetic charge separation.[6] International collaborative work was funded by a Human Frontier Science Program Award.[7]

Grouping of codons by amino acid residue molar volume and hydropathy in the Genetic Code. Expanded View

Youvan and his students have also worked in the field of combinatorial mutagenesis which can be used for directed evolution of proteins,[8][9] such as enzymes. At MIT, they discovered a pattern in the genetic code regarding the residue hydropathy and molar volume of encoded amino acids.[10][11]

Youvan has also published research in the fields of digital imaging spectroscopy for absorption spectra[12] and fluorescence, including Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET).[13] Zeiss[permanent dead link] has incorporated "Youvan's Method" into their Axiomat microscope for algorithmic deconvolution of the actual FRET signal in an image (such as GFP interactions) from interfering donor and acceptor spectral signals.


  1. ^ From Planetary Imaging to Enzyme Screening, From Planetary Imaging to Enzyme Screening
  2. ^ Youvan, DC; Hearst, JE (1979). "Reverse transcriptase pauses at N2-methylguanine during in vitro transcription of Escherichia coli 16S ribosomal RNA". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 76 (8): 3751–4. Bibcode:1979PNAS...76.3751Y. doi:10.1073/pnas.76.8.3751. PMC 383911. PMID 91169.
  3. ^ Youvan, DC; Hearst, JE (1981). "A sequence from Drosophila melanogaster 18S rRNA bearing the conserved hypermodified nucleoside am psi: analysis by reverse transcription and high-performance liquid chromatography". Nucleic Acids Research. 9 (7): 1723–41. doi:10.1093/nar/9.7.1723. PMC 326793. PMID 6164994.
  4. ^ Youvan, DC; Bylina, EJ; Alberti, M; Begusch, H; Hearst, JE (1984). "Nucleotide and deduced polypeptide sequences of the photosynthetic reaction-center, B870 antenna, and flanking polypeptides from R. capsulata". Cell. 37 (3): 949–57. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(84)90429-X. PMID 6744416. S2CID 34700250.
  5. ^ Govindjee (2005). Discoveries in Photosynthesis. Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration. Vol. 20. Springer-Verlag. p. 58. ISBN 9781402033247.
  6. ^ Vos, MH; Lambry, JC; Robles, SJ; Youvan, DC; Breton, J; Martin, JL (1991). "Direct observation of vibrational coherence in bacterial reaction centers using femtosecond absorption spectroscopy". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 88 (20): 8885–9. Bibcode:1991PNAS...88.8885V. doi:10.1073/pnas.88.20.8885. PMC 52615. PMID 1924348.
  7. ^ "AWARD YEAR 1991 – "Molecular" Research Grants". Archived from the original on 2004-10-24.
  8. ^ Arkin, AP; Youvan, DC (1992). "An algorithm for protein engineering: simulations of recursive ensemble mutagenesis". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 89 (16): 7811–5. Bibcode:1992PNAS...89.7811A. doi:10.1073/pnas.89.16.7811. PMC 49801. PMID 1502200.
  9. ^ Delagrave, S; Goldman, ER; Youvan, DC (1993). "Recursive ensemble mutagenesis". Protein Engineering. 6 (3): 327–31. doi:10.1093/protein/6.3.327. PMID 8506267.
  10. ^ Yang, MM; Coleman, WJ; Youvan, DC (1990). ME, Michel-Beyerle (ed.). Reaction centers of photosynthetic bacteria: Feldafing-II-Meeting. Vol. 6. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. pp. 209–18. ISBN 3-540-53420-2.
  11. ^ Füllen, G; Youvan, DC (1994). "Genetic Algorithms and Recursive Ensemble Mutagenesis in Protein Engineering". Complexity International. 1. Archived from the original on 2011-03-15.
  12. ^ Arkin, AP; Goldman, ER; Robles, SJ; Goddard, CA; Coleman, WJ; Yang, MM; Youvan, DC (1990). "Applications of imaging spectroscopy in molecular biology. II. Colony screening based on absorption spectra". Bio/Technology. 8 (8): 746–9. doi:10.1038/nbt0890-746. PMID 1366901. S2CID 20775970.
  13. ^ Youvan, Douglas C.; Silva, Christopher M.; Bylina, Edward J.; Coleman, William J.; Dilworth, Michael R.; Yang, Mary M. (1997). "Calibration of Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer in Microscopy Using Genetically Engineered GFP Derivatives on Nickel Chelating Beads" (PDF). Biotechnology et Alia. 3: 1–18. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-10.

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