Who Discovered Ribosomes and How Did The Ribosome Gets Its Name

Ribosomes are subcellular structures where protein synthesis occurs. Their primary function is to translate genes into proteins. They read the genetic instruction provided by the messenger RNA (mRNA) to assemble amino acids into long polypeptides (proteins). They are suspended in the cytosol, or attached in the rough endoplasmic reticulum (its rough appearance is due to the attached ribosomes) and in the nuclear envelope.

Ribosomes are made up of 35% proteins (also called ribonucleoproteins) and 65% RNA (also called ribosomal RNA) that forms a complex with each other. A ribosome measures 20 nanometer or 200 Angstroms; it is very small that a sophisticated microscope such as electron microscope is needed to view it. One ribosome is made up of two subunits that work together to synthesize protein using the genetic instruction in the messenger RNA.

In this article let us tackle a little bit of the history of ribosomes: who discovered ribosomes and how did the ribosome gets its name.
The ribosome during protein synthesis, Image from Wikimedia Commons


Discovery of the Ribosome by George Palade with the Collaboration of Brilliant Scientists

The invention of the electron microscope has paved the way for the discovery of the ribosome. The Romanian cell biologist George Palade was the first to observe the ribosomes as dense particles or granule in the cytoplasm using the electron microscope in 1955. He published his discovery in the Journal of Biophysics, Biochemistry, and Cytology. (Take note that the term “ribosomes” came out later) Palade also refined the differential centrifugation procedure to isolate ribosomes from lysed cells t0 study them better.

With research collaboration with Philip Siekevitz, Palade found out the molecules attached to the rough endoplasmic reticulum are nothing but ribosomes. Further collaboration with other scientists led to the discovery of the function of ribosomes as the sites of protein synthesis.

Palade has focused his career to the study of the structure and functions of ribosomes. His contribution to the study of ribosomes was recognized when he shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine with his co-researchers in 1974. In addition to the Nobel Prize, Palade also received numerous recognitions from different scientific societies, foundations, and universities during his lifetime.

How Did The Ribosome Gets Its Name

The term “ribosome” was proposed by scientist Richard B. Roberts during a scientific symposium on microsomal particles and protein synthesis in 1958. The term has arisen when there was disagreement among scientists in the symposium on how to call or designate the subcellular structure (the ribosome). Scientists at the symposium accepted the term because it is satisfactory and sounds good. Since then, the term “ribosome” was widely used to describe the subcellular structure involved in protein synthesis.[ad#afterpost]