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Peter C. Doherty

Peter C. Doherty
Born 15 October 1940
Nationality Australian
Fields medicine
Institutions John Curtin School of Medical Research
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Known for major histocompatibility complex
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1996

Peter Charles Doherty, AC (born 15 October 1940) is an Australian Veterinary Surgeon and researcher in the field of medicine. He received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 1995, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with Rolf M. Zinkernagel in 1996, and was named Australian of the Year in 1997. In the Australia Day Honours of 1997, he was named a Companion of the Order of Australia for his work with Zinkernagel.[1] Zinkernagel was named an honorary Companion.

Doherty's research focuses on the immune system, and his Nobel work described how the body's immune cells protect against viruses. He and Rolf Zinkernagel, the co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, discovered how T cells recognize their target antigens in combination with major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins.

Viruses infect host cells and reproduce inside them. Killer T-cells destroy those infected cells so that the viruses cannot reproduce. Zinkernagel and Doherty discovered that, in order for killer T cells to recognize infected cells, they had to recognize two molecules on the surface of the cell – not only the virus antigen, but also a molecule of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). This recognition was done by a T-cell receptor on the surface of the T cell. The MHC was previously identified as being responsible for the rejection of incompatible tissues during transplantation. Zinkernagel and Doherty discovered that the MHC was responsible for the body fighting meningitis viruses too.[2]

Doherty was born in Brisbane, Queensland, where he attended Indooroopilly State High School. He received his bachelor's degree in veterinary science in 1962 and his master's degree in veterinary science in 1966 from the University of Queensland. After obtaining his PhD in 1970 from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, he returned to Australia to perform his Nobel Prize-winning research at the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra. Doherty currently spends three months of the year conducting research at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where he is a faculty member at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.[1] For the other 9 months of the year he resides at the University of Melbourne, Victoria.

His semi-autobiographical book, The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize, was published by The Miegunyah Press, an imprint of Melbourne University Publishing Ltd, Melbourne in 2005.


  • Locke, Richard David. "Peter Charles Doherty". Scalpel & tongs: American journal of medical philately 47 (1): 2–3. PMID 12793421.  
  • Doherty, P C (December 1997). "The Nobel Lectures in Immunology. The Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1996. Cell mediated immunity in virus infections". Scand. J. Immunol. 46 (6): 527–40. PMID 9420614.  
  • Zinkernagel, R M (November 1997). "The Nobel Lectures in Immunology. The Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1996. Cellular immune recognition and the biological role of major transplantation antigens". Scand. J. Immunol. 46 (5): 421–36. doi:10.1046/j.1365-3083.1997.d01-149.x. PMID 9393624.  
  • Kuśnierczyk, P (. 1997). "Better late than never: discovery of MHC restriction awarded with the Nobel Prize after 22 years (Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1996)". Postepy Biochem. 43 (2): 66–72. PMID 9411434.  
  • Rennie, J; Wallich P, Yam P (January 1997). "The 1996 Nobel prizes in science. Unveiling an antiviral defense". Sci. Am. 276 (1): 16, 18. PMID 8972615.  
  • ten Berge, R J; Melief C J (December 1996). "The Nobel Prize Medicine 1996 for the discovery of MHC restriction". Nederlands tijdschrift voor geneeskunde 140 (52): 2607–10. PMID 9026737.  
  • Klareskog, L; Kärre K, Möller E, Wigzell H (December 1996). "Nobel Prize for discovery of the cell-mediated immune defence". Ugeskr. Laeg. 158 (51): 7379–83. PMID 9012053.  
  • Thorsby, E (December 1996). "The Nobel Prize in medicine 1996". Scand. J. Immunol. 44 (6): 541–3. doi:10.1046/j.1365-3083.1996.d01-361.x. PMID 8972732.  
  • Klareskog, L; Kärre K, Möller E, Wigzell H (October 1996). "The Nobel Prize for discovery of the cell-mediated immune defense. Significance for clinical medicine". Lakartidningen 93 (42): 3714–7. PMID 8965536.  
  • Masood, E; Weiss U (October 1996). "Nobel goes to T-cell pioneers whose work 'changed face of immunology'". Nature 383 (6600): 465. doi:10.1038/383465a0. PMID 8849707.  

External links

VIDEO: * Peter Doherty delivers the opening address at the 2009 Melbourne Festival of Ideas on ABC Fora

Preceded by
Dr. John Yu
Australian of the Year Award
Succeeded by
Cathy Freeman


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