Dino Moras

Dino Moras, is a chemist by training. His doctoral thesis, defended at the Université Louis-Pasteur in 1971, was devoted to the structural study of cryptates synthesized by Jean-Pierre Sauvage and Bernard Dietrich in Jean-Marie Lehn's team. He had previously carried out a first synthesis and structural characterization by crystallography and Mossbauer spectroscopy of an entirely mineral heterocycle (postgraduate thesis, 1968).

Dino Moras is a pioneer of structural biology in France. After a post-doctoral internship in the laboratory of Prof. MG Rossmann (Purdue University, Indiana), he undertook the study of a major step in the translation of the genetic code, the aminoacylation of transfer RNAs (tRNAs) by aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs). In 1980 the determination of the structure of yeast tRNAASP (second atomic structure of an atomic-resolved transfer RNA) was the first step of a research which culminated ten years later in the discovery of the partition of aaRSs into two classes with the associated functional correlation (target chirality) followed by the determination of the atomic structure of the first class II tRNA-aaRS complex (tRNAASP-aspRS) and the dissection of the enzymatic mechanism. A spin-off of this project was the solution of Pauling's paradox, the fact that synthetases can discriminate isosteric amino acids such as Thr, Ser and Val with a very low error rate. The structure of threonyl-tRNA synthetase solved the puzzle.

In 1990 he began studying another step in the expression of genetic information, the regulation of gene transcription by nuclear hormone receptors. These transcription factors control most physiological functions and are involved in many pathologies. In 1995, the first atomic structures of the ligand binding domains (LBDs) of the retinoic acid receptor (RAR) and its molecular partner, the retinoid X receptor (RXR), made it possible to define a characteristic canonical folding for this family of proteins and to shed light on the role of the ligand in the activation of these factors.  Several other structures, including the insect-specific vitamin D receptor and ecdyzone receptor, followed. In a second step, the study of the structural basis of the transcription complex controlled by nuclear receptors, he used integrative approaches of structural biology, including cryo electron microscopy to model the molecular architecture in solution of several complexes comprising DNA, receptors and their transcriptional coregulators.

Dino Moras was assistant-professor at the Strasbourg School of Chemistry before joining the CNRS in 1969. He was awarded a CNRS bronze medal (1972) and a silver medal (1982). He is currently Emeritus Research Director and Professor at UNISTRA. He is a member of the French Academy of Sciences, of the Academia Europeae, and a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a Knight of the Legion of Honour and an Officer of the National Order of Merit.