Nirenberg, Marshall Warren, 1927–, American biochemist, b. Brooklyn, N.Y., Ph.D., Univ. of Michigan, 1947. He spent his entire career as a researcher at the National Institutes of Health. Nirenberg was a co-recipient of the 1968 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with Har Gobind Khorana and Robert W. Holley for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis. Nirenberg, working with German biochemist Johann Heinrich Matthaei and later American geneticist Philip Leder (postdoctoral researchers in his lab), found that the arrangement of the four types of nucleotides on the DNA molecule (see nucleic acid) determines both the chemical composition and the function of new cells, and identified the sequences of nucleotides, or codons, that specify the 20 amino acids.
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