David Allis, a brilliant biochemist who helped demonstrate the role that histones proteins play in gene expression, has passed away at the age of 71. Allis’s contributions to chromatin biology were recognized by a 2018 Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. The work of Allis, and of his co-recipient Michael Grunstein, upended the understanding of histones, which once had been thought of as serving no function other than as spools around which long threads of DNA were wound. Allis’s discoveries helped show that histones are not simply inert structures that simply package DNA, but that in addition, histone proteins facilitate activation and inhibition of transcriptional machinery. In doing so, Allis helped construct a new paradigm in basic biology, in which histones are not passive participants in DNA packaging, but rather, are key contributors to biological responses.

Listen to David Allis discuss his work

Part Two