What are Cyclins? - Research with Cyclins

Much of the research with cyclins has taken place at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. In 1979, researcher Joan Ruderman and her lab used clam oocytes (eggs) to study the regulation of development in clams. During the course of that research, Ruderman and her colleagues found that certain proteins would appear and disappear in rapid sequence during the course of development. Continuing to work on determining the action of those proteins, Ruderman spent the next several summers at the MBL researching with a variety of individuals

One of those individuals was Richard Timothy Hunt, an English biochemist. In 1982, Tim Hunt was faculty for the summer Physiology course at the MBL. While teaching that course, Hunt and some of his students identified the proteins that Ruderman had seen in previous years. Hunt named those proteins “cyclins” for his love of bicycling, an appropriate name given the role cyclins play in the cyclical nature of the cell cycle (Nobel Prize, 2001). Hunt, and two others, would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001 for their work with regulators of the cell cycle.

After the identification of cyclin, researchers around the world continued to identify cyclins in many different organisms as well as a variety of cyclins in  individual organisms. As the mechanism of cyclins role in the cell cycle became clearer, researchers began to realize that some biological mechanism must regulate the production and destruction of cyclins. Israeli biochemist Avram Hershko came to the MBL in 1991 looking to determine that mechanism using the same clam oocytes Ruderman used in her original research. A few years later, Hershko along with two others, laid out the ubiquitin pathway by which cyclins are degraded during the cell cycle. They went on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2004.