Walter Jakob Gehring

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Walter Jakob Gehring
Walter Jakob Gehring (2014)
Born(1939-03-20)20 March 1939
Zürich, Switzerland
Died29 May 2014(2014-05-29) (aged 75)
Basel, Switzerland
Known forDiscovering the homeobox (DNA segment)
AwardsLouis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine (1987)[1]
Scientific career
FieldsDevelopmental Biologist
InstitutionsUniversity of Zurich, Yale Medical School, Yale University, Biozentrum University of Basel

Walter Jakob Gehring (20 March 1939[2] – 29 May 2014[3])[4] was a Swiss developmental biologist who was a professor at the Biozentrum Basel of the University of Basel, Switzerland. He obtained his PhD at the University of Zurich in 1965 and after two years as a research assistant of Ernst Hadorn he joined Alan Garen's group at Yale University in New Haven as a postdoctoral fellow.[5]

In 1969 he was appointed associate professor at Yale Medical School[6] and 1972 returned to Switzerland to become a professor of developmental biology and genetics at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel. He was Secretary General of the European Molecular Biology Organization,[7] President of the International Society of Developmental Biologists, and Foreign Member of the national academies of the USA, Great Britain,[8] France, Germany and Sweden.

Gehring was mainly involved in studies of Drosophila genetics and development, particularly in the analysis of cell determination in the embryo and transdetermination of imaginal discs. He performed studies of the heat shock genes, various transposons, and the homeotic genes which are involved in the genetic control of development.

In 1983 Gehring and his collaborators (William McGinnis, Michael S. Levine, Ernst Hafen, Richard Garber, Atsushi Kuroiwa, Johannes Wirz), discovered the homeobox, a DNA segment characteristic for homeotic genes which is not only present in arthropods and their ancestors, but also in vertebrates including man.[9]

Gehring was also involved in the development and application of enhancer trapping methods. He and his collaborators identified PAX6 as a master control gene for eye development, which led to a new theory about the monophyletic origin of the eyes in evolution.[10]



  1. ^ a b "Louis-Jeantet Prize, Year: 1987".
  2. ^ Who, Marquis Who's (2008). Who's who in Science and Engineering. ISBN 9780837957685.
  3. ^ Affolter, Markus; Müller, Martin (2014). "Walter Jakob Gehring (1939–2014)". Developmental Cell. 30 (2): 120–122. doi:10.1016/j.devcel.2014.07.011. PMID 25215373.
  4. ^ "Walter Jakob Gehring (1939–2014) | the Embryo Project Encyclopedia".
  5. ^ Shearn, A; Rice, T; Garen, A; Gehring, W (1971). "Imaginal Disc Abnormalities in Lethal Mutants of Drosophila". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 68 (10): 2594–8. Bibcode:1971PNAS...68.2594S. doi:10.1073/pnas.68.10.2594. PMC 389475. PMID 5002822.
  6. ^ "New Perspectives on Eye Development and the Evolution of Eyes and Photoreceptors" (PDF). Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  7. ^ "EMBO & EMBC annual report 2001" (PDF). Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  8. ^ Morata, Ginés; Affolter, Markus (2021). "Walter Jakob Gehring. 20 March 1939—29 May 2014". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 71: 197–212. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2021.0011. S2CID 236457532.
  9. ^ Gehring, W. J.; Kuroiwa, A.; Hafen, E.; Levine, M. S.; McGinnis, W. (March 1984). "A conserved DNA sequence in homoeotic genes of the Drosophila Antennapedia and bithorax complexes". Nature. 308 (5958): 428–433. Bibcode:1984Natur.308..428M. doi:10.1038/308428a0. PMID 6323992. S2CID 4235713.
  10. ^ Gehring, WJ; Ikeo, K (September 1999). "Pax 6: mastering eye morphogenesis and eye evolution". Trends Genet. 15 (9): 371–7. doi:10.1016/s0168-9525(99)01776-x. PMID 10461206.
  11. ^ "Otto-Warburg-Medal". GBM. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  12. ^ White, P. C.; Mune, T.; Rogerson, F. M.; Kayes, K. M.; Agarwal, A. K. (1997). "March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology". Pediatric Research. 41 (1): 25–9. doi:10.1203/00006450-199704001-00014. PMID 8979285.
  13. ^ "The 2000 Kyoto Prize". Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  14. ^ "Alfred Vogt-Stiftung zur Förderung der Augenheilkunde".
  15. ^ "2002 Balzan Prize for Developmental Biology". Retrieved 3 June 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Walter, Niklaus (2002). "From Transdetermination to the Homeodomain at Atomic Resolution: An interview with Walter J. Gehring". Int. J. Dev. Biol. 46 (1): 29–37. PMID 11902685.