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

Peter Walter
Peter Walter 2017.jpg
Peter Walter in 2017
Born (1954-12-05) 5 December 1954 (age 65)
Alma materFree University of Berlin
Vanderbilt University
Rockefeller University
Known for
Scientific career
FieldsMolecular biology
InstitutionsUniversity of California, San Francisco
Doctoral advisorGünter Blobel


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 honorsEdit

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. For 2018 he received the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.[14]


Peter Walter is a coauthor of the book Molecular Biology of the Cell.[15]


  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 350451. 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 2111968. 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 2801708. 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. ^ Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences 2018
  15. ^ Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, Raff M, Roberts K, Walter P (2014). Molecular Biology of the Cell (6th ed.). Garland. ISBN 9780815344322.