Peter Walter
Walter in 2021
Born (1954-12-05) December 5, 1954 (age 68)
Alma materFree University of Berlin
Vanderbilt University
Rockefeller University
Known for
Scientific career
FieldsMolecular biology
InstitutionsUniversity of California, San Francisco
Doctoral advisorGünter Blobel

Peter Walter (born December 5, 1954) is a German-American molecular biologist and biochemist and is Director of the Bay Area Institute of Science at Altos Labs, Professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator until 2022.


Peter attended the Freie Universität Berlin, received his MS in Organic Chemistry from Vanderbilt University in 1977 and his PhD in Cell Biology at The Rockefeller University in 1981.


During his thesis work in Dr. Günter Blobel's laboratory, Walter purified the proteinaceous members of a macromolecular complex essential for protein translocation into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) [1] and showed that it selectively recognizes nascent secretory proteins in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells and targets them to the ER.[2] He subsequently identified a 7S RNA component of the complex which is essential for its function and named the holocomplex the signal recognition particle (SRP).[3]

Walter moved from Rockefeller to start his own laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco.[4] He and his group identified an ER resident transmembrane kinase/endoribonuclease, Ire1, which is one of three known sensors of the folding capacity within the endoplasmic reticulum lumen responsible for initiating a signaling pathway known as the unfolded protein response.[5][6]

Walter's laboratory at UCSF continues to focus on gaining a mechanistic understanding of protein sorting/targeting to the ER as well as a better understanding the interplay between ER homeostasis and disease.[7]

Walter describes his career as "Walking Along the Serendipitous Path of Discovery" and goes on to say "Personally, I would consider it a crowning highlight of my career if some aspects of the basic knowledge that we have accumulated over the years are translated into a tangible benefit for mankind. Yet importantly, none of these tremendous opportunities were obvious when we started on our journey; they only emerged gradually as we playfully and fervently followed the turns of our meandering and serendipitous path."[8][9]

Awards and honors

Walter is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Inventors. His recent awards include the 2014 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, the 2014 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, the 2015 Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science, the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences,[10] and 2020 UCSF Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring Award.

Walter is a coauthor of the textbook Molecular Biology of the Cell.[11]


  1. ^ Walter, P; Blobel, G (1980). "Purification of a membrane-associated protein complex required for protein translocation across the endoplasmic reticulum". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 77 (12): 7112–6. Bibcode:1980PNAS...77.7112W. doi:10.1073/pnas.77.12.7112. PMC 350451. PMID 6938958.
  2. ^ Walter P, Ibrahimi I, Blobel G (November 1981). "Translocation of proteins across the endoplasmic reticulum. I. Signal recognition protein (SRP) binds to in-vitro-assembled polysomes synthesizing secretory protein". The Journal of Cell Biology. 91 (2 Pt 1): 545–50. doi:10.1083/jcb.91.2.545. PMC 2111968. PMID 7309795.
  3. ^ Walter P, Blobel G (October 1982). "Signal recognition particle contains a 7S RNA essential for protein translocation across the endoplasmic reticulum". Nature. 299 (5885): 691–8. Bibcode:1982Natur.299..691W. doi:10.1038/299691a0. PMID 6181418. S2CID 4237513.
  4. ^ "UCSF Faculty Page - Peter Walter"
  5. ^ Cox, J. S.; Shamu, C. E.; Walter, P. (1993). "Transcriptional induction of genes encoding endoplasmic reticulum resident proteins requires a transmembrane protein kinase". Cell. 73 (6): 1197–206. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(93)90648-A. PMID 8513503. S2CID 16065404.
  6. ^ Ron, D.; Walter, P. (2007). "Signal integration in the endoplasmic reticulum unfolded protein response". Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology. 8 (7): 519–29. doi:10.1038/nrm2199. PMID 17565364. S2CID 11540851.
  7. ^ "Walter Lab Homepage at UCSF"
  8. ^ Walter, P (2010). "Walking along the serendipitous path of discovery". Molecular Biology of the Cell. 21 (1): 15–7. doi:10.1091/mbc.E09-08-0662. PMC 2801708. PMID 20048259.
  9. ^ ""Ravven, Wallace. "Four UCSF faculty scientists elected to National Academy of Science. UCSF News Center, 2004."". Archived from the original on January 1, 2007. Retrieved December 20, 2006.
  10. ^ "Breakthrough Prize – Life Sciences Breakthrough Prize Laureates – Peter Walter". Breakthrough Prize. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  11. ^ Molecular biology of the cell. New York, NY. ISBN 978-0-8153-4432-2. OCLC 887605755.