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Doolittle (Russell) Biochemistry Laboratory Records
MSS 0077  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Preferred Citation
  • Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Publication Rights
  • Acquisition Information

  • Descriptive Summary

    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla 92093-0175
    Title: Russell Doolittle Biochemistry Laboratory Records
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0077
    Physical Description: 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.
    Languages: English .

    Preferred Citation

    Russell Doolittle Biochemistry Laboratory Records, MSS 77. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Administrative History

    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
    Accession Processed in 2021
    Arranged in two series: 12) CORRESPONDENCE, and 13) RESEARCH AND WRITINGS.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Acquisition Information

    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