Dr. Schekman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, Berkley. Schekman received his BA in Molecular Biology at UCLA, his PhD in Biochemistry, studying with Arthur Kornberg at Stanford University and he conducted postdoctoral work with S.J. Singer at UCSD. Schekman joined the Berkley facility in 1976.
At Berkley, Schekman initiated studies on the mechanism of protein secretion using the model eukaryotic cell, S. cerevisiae. A classic genetic approach was developed to illuminate the processes of polpeptide import into the endoplasmic reticulum, protein sorting, and packaging into transport vesicles to acceptor membrane compartments. SEC genes that encode the proteins implicated in these processes were cloned and shown to be evolutionary conserved. Mammalian orthologs of the yeast SEC genes are now known to define most aspects of normal and specialized secretory processes. Schekman's group developed complementary biochemical approaches to define the exact roles of SEC proteins. Novel insights included the discovery of the major subunit of the polypeptide translocation channel of the ER (sec61p), the demonstration that cytosolic hsp70 promotes the post-translational translocation of secretory and mitochondrial precursor polypeptide, and the isolation of a novel coat protein complex, COPII, responsible for secretory and membrane cargo sorting and anterograde vesicle budding from the ER.