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Peter Walter

Peter Walter
File:Peter Walter (1954-) - from Flicker 2194972175.jpg
Peter Walter in 2008
Born Berlin
Fields Molecular biology
Institutions University of California, San Francisco
Alma mater Free University of Berlin
Rockefeller University
Doctoral advisor Template:If empty
Known for
Notable awards

Peter Walter is a German-American molecular biologist and biochemist and Professor at UCSF.


Walter earned a B.S. degree in chemistry from the Free University of Berlin, an M.S. degree in organic chemistry from Vanderbilt University, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Rockefeller University. He is currently Professor and former Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).[1][2]


During his thesis work in Dr. Günter Blobel's laboratory, Walter purified the proteinaceous members of a macromolecular complex essential for protein translocation into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) [3] and showed that it selectively recognizes nascent secretory proteins in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells and targets them to the ER.[4] He subsequently identified a 7S RNA component of the complex which is essential for its function and named the holocomplex the signal recognition particle (SRP).[5]

Walter moved from Rockefeller to start his own laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco,[6] where he and his group identified an ER resident transmembrane kinase/endoribonuclease, Ire1, which is one of three known sensors of the folding capacity within the endoplasmic reticulum lumen responsible for initiating a signaling pathway known as the unfolded protein response.[7][8]

Walter’s laboratory continues to focus on gaining a mechanistic understanding of protein sorting/targeting to the ER as well as a better understanding the interplay between ER homeostasis and disease.[9]

Walter describes his career as “Walking Along the Serendipitous Path of Discovery” and goes on to say “Personally, I would consider it a crowning highlight of my career if some aspects of the basic knowledge that we have accumulated over the years are translated into a tangible benefit for mankind. Yet importantly, none of these tremendous opportunities were obvious when we started on our journey; they only emerged gradually as we playfully and fervently followed the turns of our meandering and serendipitous path.” [10]

Walter is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute [11] and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.[12]

Walter is a co-author of Molecular Biology of the Cell, now in its sixth edition.

Awards and honors

Walter has been awarded several honors including the Otto Warburg Medal in 2011 [13] and the Lasker Award in 2014.


  1. Peter Walter's short talk: "Unfolding the UPR"
  2. Interview with Peter Walter: "Squeezing Time for Art"
  3. Walter, P; Blobel, G (1980). "Purification of a membrane-associated protein complex required for protein translocation across the endoplasmic reticulum". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 77 (12): 7112–6. PMC 350451. PMID 6938958. doi:10.1073/pnas.77.12.7112. 
  4. Walter P, Ibrahimi I, Blobel G (November 1981). "Translocation of proteins across the endoplasmic reticulum. I. Signal recognition protein (SRP) binds to in-vitro-assembled polysomes synthesizing secretory protein". The Journal of Cell Biology 91 (2 Pt 1): 545–50. PMC 2111968. PMID 7309795. doi:10.1083/jcb.91.2.545. 
  5. Walter P and Blobel G (October 1982). "Signal recognition particle contains a 7S RNA essential for protein translocation across the endoplasmic reticulum.". Nature 299 (5885): 691–8. PMID 6181418. doi:10.1038/299691a0. 
  6. "UCSF Faculty Page - Peter Walter"
  7. Cox, J. S.; Shamu, C. E.; Walter, P. (1993). "Transcriptional induction of genes encoding endoplasmic reticulum resident proteins requires a transmembrane protein kinase". Cell 73 (6): 1197–206. PMID 8513503. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(93)90648-A. 
  8. Ron, D.; Walter, P. (2007). "Signal integration in the endoplasmic reticulum unfolded protein response". Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 8 (7): 519. PMID 17565364. doi:10.1038/nrm2199. 
  9. "Walter Lab Homepage at UCSF"
  10. Walter, P (2010). "Walking along the serendipitous path of discovery". Molecular Biology of the Cell 21 (1): 15–7. PMC 2801708. PMID 20048259. doi:10.1091/mbc.E09-08-0662. 
  11. "HHMI Scientist Bio: Peter Walter, PhD."
  12. "Ravven, Wallace. "Four UCSF faculty scientists elected to National Academy of Science. UCSF News Center, 2004."
  13. "Otto-Warburg-Medal". GBM. Retrieved 12 January 2014.