Guy Dirheimer

Born on July 14, 1931, I passed my childhood and the war in Strasbourg. In 1944 my parents, my brother and I were arrested by the Gestapo and sent to a SS camp in Germany. We were liberated by the American army in 1945. After studying pharmacy, physiology and biochemistry at Strasbourg University I became a researcher in 1955 at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in J.-P. Ebel’s laboratory. I first worked on the structure and function of linear polyphosphates in yeast and bacteria. This was interrupted by my 28 months military service at a research laboratory of the health service in Lyon where I isolated and studied a soluble substrate of lysozyme from the bacteria Micrococcus lysodeikticus. I got a PhD in pharmacy in 1961 and in sciences in 1964 and became assistant professor in 1964, then full professor (1969) at the Faculty of Pharmacy of which I was dean in 1969–1970. There I lectured biochemistry, molecular biology and toxicology. After a post-doc in R.W. Holley’s laboratory in Ithaca (USA) in 1965, I turned to the study of tRNAs, which became my main research topic for 35 years. I was concerned with their isolation, primary structure and their rare nucleotides. I discovered their specific cleavage by lead, and studied several aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. In parallel, I also did research in toxicology and discovered the mode of action of ricin and of ochratoxin A on protein synthesis. My last research was concerned with the genotoxicity of mycotoxins and the formation of DNA adducts. This was possible, thanks to a very active laboratory and many gifted and hard working co-workers as well as much international collaborations. I worked at the CNRS Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology of which I became director after the retirement of J.-P. Ebel. I was involved in many scientific organisations: President of the French Biochemical Society and of the French Toxicological Society (1979–1980), I was Secretary general of FEBS (1984–1989) and President of FEBS (1999–2003). I was also president of EUROTOX (1990–1992). I am member of the French National Academy of Medicine since 1988.