Marianne Grunberg-Manago

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Marianne Grunberg-Manago
Born(1921-01-06)January 6, 1921
DiedJanuary 3, 2013(2013-01-03) (aged 91)
Scientific career

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.[4]

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[5] and a Foreign Associate Member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1982.[6]

Grunberg-Manago was the first woman to direct the International Union of Biochemistry, and she was also the first woman to preside the French Academy of Sciences from 1995 to 1996.[7]

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.[7]

Grunberg-Manago died in January, 2013, three days before her 92nd birthday.[8]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • Member of the EMBO (1964)
  • Charles-Léopold-Mayer Prize from the French Academy of Sciences (1966)
  • Foreign member of the American Society of Biological Chemists (1972)
  • Member of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology)
  • Member of the French Society for biochemistry and molecular biology
  • Foreign member of the Franklin Society (1995)
  • Member of the Spanish Society for molecular biology
  • Member of the Greek Society for molecular biology
  • Member of the Executive Board of the ICSU
  • Foreign member of the New York Academy of Sciences (1977)
  • Foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1978)
  • Foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States (1982)
  • Honorary foreign member of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1988)
  • Member of Academia Europea (1988)
  • Honorary foreign member of the Russian Academy of sciences (1991)
  • Foreign member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (1991)
  • Grand Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honor(2008)


  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: 351–365. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1997.0020.
  2. ^ Grunberg-Manago, Marianne; Ortiz, P; Ochoa, S (April 1956). "Enzymic synthesis of polynucleotides. I. Polynucleotide phosphorylase of Azotobacter vinelandii". Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. 20 (1): 269–85. doi:10.1016/0006-3002(56)90286-4. PMID 13315374.
  3. ^ Grunberg-Manago, M.; Oritz, P. J.; Ochoa, S. (1955). "Enzymatic synthesis of nucleic acidlike polynucleotides". Science. 122 (3176): 907–910. Bibcode:1955Sci...122..907G. doi:10.1126/science.122.3176.907. PMID 13274047.
  4. ^ Symmons, Martyn F.; Jones, George H.; Luisi, Ben F. (2000-11-15). "A Duplicated Fold Is the Structural Basis for Polynucleotide Phosphorylase Catalytic Activity, Processivity, and Regulation". Structure. 8 (11): 1215–1226. doi:10.1016/S0969-2126(00)00521-9.
  5. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter Gurl=". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  6. ^ "Marianne Grunberg-Manago". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Biography of Marianne Grunberg-Manago" (PDF) (in French). French Academy of Sciences. February 22, 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2013.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "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. Archived from the original on 20 February 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2013.