Elected: 2002
Discipline: Cell and Molecular Biology
Professor William Earnshaw
University of Edinburgh
William Earnshaw’s accomplishments include: Identification of topoisomerase II as a major nonhistone scaffold protein in mitotic chromosomes; First identification of centromeric proteins in any species; Development of the first cell-free system for studying apoptosis; Identification of the first apoptotic caspase substrate (PARP); Identification of a chromosomal passenger complex of INCENP, Aurora-B kinase, Survivin and Borealin and demonstration that it is an essential regulator of mitotic events; Demonstrated that the condensin complex is essential for mitotic chromosome architecture; Designed and characterized the first synthetic human artificial chromosome with a conditional centromere and used it to manipulate the epigenetic landscape of the human kinetochore; Demonstrated that mitotic centromere transcription prevents heterochromatin invasion and centromere inactivation. He also developed tools allowing acute target protein depletion in cells undergoing mitotic entry with unparalleled synchrony and applied this system in an interdisciplinary collaboration to reveal the condensin-mediated scaffold/loop organisation of mitotic chromosomes. Earnshaw was elected to EMBO, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Society of London. He co-authors the textbook Cell Biology with Tom Pollard, Graham Johnson and Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz (3rd edition published in 2017). His 363 publications have been cited over 55,000 times (h = 123).