Peter Walter

Peter Walter

Peter Walter in 2015
Born (1954-12-05) 5 December 1954
West Berlin
Fields Molecular biology
Institutions University of California, San Francisco
Alma mater Free University of Berlin
Rockefeller University
Doctoral advisor Günter Blobel
Known for
Notable awards

Peter Walter (born 5 December 1954) is a German-American molecular biologist and biochemist and Professor at the University of California, San Francisco.


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 a Professor and former Chair 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]

Awards and honors

Walter has been awarded several honors including the Otto Warburg Medal in 2011,[13] the Lasker Award and the Shaw Prize in 2014 and the Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science in 2015.


Peter Walter is a coauthor of the book Molecular Biology of the Cell.[14]


  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. doi:10.1073/pnas.77.12.7112. PMC 350451Freely accessible. PMID 6938958.
  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. doi:10.1083/jcb.91.2.545. PMC 2111968Freely accessible. PMID 7309795.
  5. Walter P & Blobel G (October 1982). "Signal recognition particle contains a 7S RNA essential for protein translocation across the endoplasmic reticulum.". Nature. 299 (5885): 691–8. doi:10.1038/299691a0. PMID 6181418.
  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. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(93)90648-A. PMID 8513503.
  8. Ron, D.; Walter, P. (2007). "Signal integration in the endoplasmic reticulum unfolded protein response". Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology. 8 (7): 519. doi:10.1038/nrm2199. PMID 17565364.
  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. doi:10.1091/mbc.E09-08-0662. PMC 2801708Freely accessible. PMID 20048259.
  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.
  14. Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, Raff M, Roberts K, Walter P (2014). Molecular Biology of the Cell (6th ed.). Garland. ISBN 9780815344322.
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