Scope and Content of Collection
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla 92093-0175
Title: Russell Doolittle Biochemistry Laboratory Records
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0077
99.0 Linear feet
(83 records cartons, 37 archives boxes, 16 oversize folders and 1 art bin item)
Date (inclusive): 1964-2016
Abstract: The records of Dr. Russell F. Doolittle's biochemistry laboratory at the University of California, San Diego include notebooks
related to the first determination of the complete sequence of amino acids in the human fibrinogen molecule, paper files for
the amino acid sequences contained in the protein sequence data bank called NEWAT, as well as other research, correspondence
and Protein Society files.
Russell Doolittle Biochemistry Laboratory Records, MSS 77. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Dr. Russell F. Doolittle, professor of biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, headed a campus science laboratory
that conducted research in the evolutionary and structural aspects of proteins. In 1979, Doolittle's laboratory successfully
analyzed the structure of the amino acid sequence for the human fibrinogen molecule. During that study, ten to twenty postdoctoral,
graduate and undergraduate researchers worked to pull apart and analyze the amino acid sequences in the alpha, beta and gamma
chains of fibrinogen. Doolittle adapted a peptide synthesizing machine to break apart peptides and employed an amino acid
analyzer to identify the sequences. The peptide synthesizer, which was the second peptide synthesizer ever constructed, was
modeled on the prototype designed by Bruce Merrifield, then of Rockefeller University. Merrifield was later awarded the Nobel
Prize for the design of the machine.
The UC San Diego machine was constructed in 1964 at the instigation of Martin Kamen, a member of the Chemistry faculty. Professor
Kamen had seen Merrifield's machine and, on his return to San Diego, asked Arthur Robinson, a graduate student in the Chemistry
Department, to oversee construction of the machine. Robinson journeyed back to New York to examine Merrifield's machine more
closely and then, after returning to San Diego, began constructing the Doolittle Laboratory's machine. After a period of time,
the machine was converted into a peptide sequencer. Instead of building up peptides one amino acid at a time, it would take
them apart one amino acid at a time. In 1979, the machine was used to make the first determination of the complete amino acid
sequence for the human fibrinogen molecule, which is composed of 2,934 amino acids.
Doolittle also constructed a protein sequence data bank called NEWAT. Sequences identified in the published literature were
entered into an electronic database and new sequences were searched against known sequences. In 1983, Doolittle used the data
bank to link separate research efforts at the Center for Blood Research in Boston and the National Cancer Institute in Washington,
D.C. He related a known cancer gene to a gene with a known function in human cells.
Doolittle, who was born in 1931 in New Haven, Connecticut, received his doctorate in biochemistry from Harvard Medical School
in 1961. He joined the UC San Diego Department of Biology as a researcher in 1964, and then the Department of Chemistry and
Biochemistry as assistant professor in 1965. Throughout his tenure at UC San Diego he also held positions as professor for
the Division of Biological Sciences, Section of Molecular Biology, and the Center for Molecular Genetics. He served as chair
of the Chemistry Department from 1981 to 1984, as chair of the Academic Senate, and on the editorial board for
Protein Science. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Guggenheim Fellow,
and a recipient of the Paul Ehrlich Prize and the John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science. Doolittle died in 2019
in La Jolla, California.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Russell Doolittle Biochemistry Laboratory Records document the activities of a UC San Diego science laboratory engaged
in research on the structure and evolution of proteins.
Accession Processed in 1997
Arranged in three series: 1) NEWAT, 2) LABORATORY NOTEBOOKS and 3) AMINO ACID SEQUENCER.
Accession Processed in 2006
Arranged in eight series: 4) CORRESPONDENCE, 5) LAB NOTEBOOKS, 6) RESEARCH, 7) NEWAT, 8) PROTEIN SOCIETY, 9) PUBLICATIONS,
10) GRANTS/BUDGETS and 11) TEACHING FILES.
Accession Processed in 2021
Arranged in two series: 12) CORRESPONDENCE, and 13) RESEARCH AND WRITINGS.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Acquired 1994, 2003, 2004, 2016.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Biochemistry -- Instruments
Biochemistry -- Research
Peptides -- Synthesis
Proteins -- Analysis
Biochemistry -- United States -- History
Peptides -- Analysis
Amino acids -- Analysis
Peptides -- Separation
Proteins -- Structure -- Atlases
Doolittle, Russell F., 1931-
University of California, San Diego. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry