Peter Walter, PhD

Peter Walter, PhD

Professor and Chair, Department of Biochemistry/Biophysics, UCSF; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Phone: (415) 476-5017 (voice)
Box 2200, UCSF
San Francisco, CA 94143-2200

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Cancer Center Membership

Program Member » Hematopoietic Malignancies

Research Summary

My laboratory seeks a molecular understanding of how cells control the quality of their proteins and organelles during homeostasis and stress. We are identifying the machinery and mechanisms that ensure proper protein synthesis, folding, and targeting, as well as the pathways that allow organelles to communicate and regulate their abundance. Additionally, we aim to understand how the rewiring of these processes leads to, or prevents, the progression of disease. My laboratory uses a diverse array of approaches, ranging from biochemical reconstitution to genetics, to fuel our search for fundamental discoveries in cell biology. An NIH R01 (GM32384) has been funding our biochemical and mechanistic efforts on protein targeting and translocation since the inception of my group in 1983. A second NIGMS R01 grant funded our efforts on genetic approaches on the topic (R01 GM37485). I decided to return and not renew that grant in 2000, after I was appointed as HHMI Investigator. We maintained GM32384 at a modest funding level. Website:


Freie Universitat Berlin, Germany, Vordiplom, 1976, Chemistry
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, M.Sc., 1977, Organic Chemistry
The Rockefeller University, New York, Ph.D., 1981, Cell Biology

Professional Experience

  • 1976-1977
    Direct Exchange Fellow, Vanderbilt University, in the laboratory of Dr. T.M. Harris
  • 1977-1981
    Graduate Fellow, The Rockefeller University, in the laboratory of Dr. G. Blobel
  • 1981-1982
    Postdoctoral Fellow, The Rockefeller University, in the laboratory of Dr. G. Blobel
  • 1982-1983
    Assistant Professor, Laboratory of Cell Biology, The Rockefeller University
  • 1983-1986
    Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco
  • 1986-1991
    Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, UCSF
  • 1991-present
    Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, UCSF
  • 1997-present
    Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • 2001-present
    Chair, Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics Department, UCSF

Honors & Awards

  • 1983
    Searle Scholar Award
  • 1988
    Eli Lilly Award for Fundamental Research in Biological Chemistry
  • 1988
    Passano Award
  • 1989
    Alfred P. Sloan Award
  • 1993
    NIH MERIT Award
  • 1996
    Harvey Lecturer, Rockefeller University, New York
  • 1998
    American Academy of Microbiology (elected Fellow)
  • 1998
    Feodor-Lynen-Lecture, Mosbach Kolloquium, Germany
  • 2001
    American Academy of Arts & Sciences (elected Fellow)
  • 2004
    National Academy of Sciences (elected Member)
  • 2004
    European Molecular Biology Organization (elected Associate Member)
  • 2004
    Virchow Lecture, Universität Würzburg
  • 2005
    Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences (with Dr. Kazutoshi Mori)
  • 2005
    George E. Palade Distinguished Lecture, Wayne State University School of Medicine
  • 2006
    47th Stadtler Lecture, University of Texas
  • 2006
    Leopoldina Academy of Scientists (elected member)

Selected Publications

  1. Lang AB, Peter AT, Walter P, Kornmann B. ER-mitochondrial junctions can be bypassed by dominant mutations in the endosomal protein Vps13. J Cell Biol. 2015 Sep 14; 210(6):883-90.
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  2. Acosta-Alvear D, Cho MY, Wild T, Buchholz TJ, Lerner AG, Simakova O, Hahn J, Korde N, Landgren O, Maric I, Choudhary C, Walter P, Weissman JS, Kampmann M. Paradoxical resistance of multiple myeloma to proteasome inhibitors by decreased levels of 19S proteasomal subunits. Elife. 2015; 4.
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  3. Mendez AS, Alfaro J, Morales-Soto MA, Dar AC, McCullagh E, Gotthardt K, Li H, Acosta-Alvear D, Sidrauski C, Korennykh AV, Bernales S, Shokat KM, Walter P. Endoplasmic reticulum stress-independent activation of unfolded protein response kinases by a small molecule ATP-mimic. Elife. 2015; 4.
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  4. Sidrauski C, Tsai JC, Kampmann M, Hearn BR, Vedantham P, Jaishankar P, Sokabe M, Mendez AS, Newton BW, Tang EL, Verschueren E, Johnson JR, Krogan NJ, Fraser CS, Weissman JS, Renslo AR, Walter P. Pharmacological dimerization and activation of the exchange factor eIF2B antagonizes the integrated stress response. Elife. 2015; 4.
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  5. Sidrauski C, McGeachy AM, Ingolia NT, Walter P. The small molecule ISRIB reverses the effects of eIF2a phosphorylation on translation and stress granule assembly. Elife. 2015; 4.
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  6. Osman C, Noriega TR, Okreglak V, Fung JC, Walter P. Integrity of the yeast mitochondrial genome, but not its distribution and inheritance, relies on mitochondrial fission and fusion. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Mar 3; 112(9):E947-56.
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  7. Li X, Colvin T, Rauch JN, Acosta-Alvear D, Kampmann M, Dunyak B, Hann B, Aftab BT, Murnane M, Cho M, Walter P, Weissman JS, Sherman MY, Gestwicki JE. Validation of the hsp70-bag3 protein-protein interaction as a potential therapeutic target in cancer. Mol Cancer Ther. 2015 Mar; 14(3):642-8.
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  8. van Anken E, Pincus D, Coyle S, Aragón T, Osman C, Lari F, Gómez Puerta S, Korennykh AV, Walter P. Specificity in endoplasmic reticulum-stress signaling in yeast entails a step-wise engagement of HAC1 mRNA to clusters of the stress sensor Ire1. Elife. 2014; 3.
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  9. Noriega TR, Chen J, Walter P, Puglisi JD. Real-time observation of signal recognition particle binding to actively translating ribosomes. Elife. 2014; 3.
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  10. Pincus D, Aranda-Díaz A, Zuleta IA, Walter P, El-Samad H. Delayed Ras/PKA signaling augments the unfolded protein response. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Oct 14; 111(41):14800-5.
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  11. Schuck S, Gallagher CM, Walter P. ER-phagy mediates selective degradation of endoplasmic reticulum independently of the core autophagy machinery. J Cell Sci. 2014 Sep 15; 127(Pt 18):4078-88.
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  12. Lu M, Lawrence DA, Marsters S, Acosta-Alvear D, Kimmig P, Mendez AS, Paton AW, Paton JC, Walter P, Ashkenazi A. Cell death. Opposing unfolded-protein-response signals converge on death receptor 5 to control apoptosis. Science. 2014 Jul 4; 345(6192):98-101.
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  13. Di Prisco GV, Huang W, Buffington SA, Hsu CC, Bonnen PE, Placzek AN, Sidrauski C, Krnjevic K, Kaufman RJ, Walter P, Costa-Mattioli M. Translational control of mGluR-dependent long-term depression and object-place learning by eIF2a. Nat Neurosci. 2014 Aug; 17(8):1073-82.
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  14. Okreglak V, Walter P. The conserved AAA-ATPase Msp1 confers organelle specificity to tail-anchored proteins. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jun 3; 111(22):8019-24.
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  15. Noriega TR, Tsai A, Elvekrog MM, Petrov A, Neher SB, Chen J, Bradshaw N, Puglisi JD, Walter P. Signal recognition particle-ribosome binding is sensitive to nascent chain length. J Biol Chem. 2014 Jul 11; 289(28):19294-305.
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  16. Chang YC, Khanal Lamichhane A, Garraffo HM, Walter PJ, Leerkes M, Kwon-Chung KJ. Molecular mechanisms of hypoxic responses via unique roles of Ras1, Cdc24 and Ptp3 in a human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. PLoS Genet. 2014 Apr; 10(4):e1004292.
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  17. Lim B, Miyazaki R, Neher S, Siegele DA, Ito K, Walter P, Akiyama Y, Yura T, Gross CA. Heat shock transcription factor s32 co-opts the signal recognition particle to regulate protein homeostasis in E. coli. PLoS Biol. 2013 Dec; 11(12):e1001735.
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  18. Sidrauski C, Acosta-Alvear D, Khoutorsky A, Vedantham P, Hearn BR, Li H, Gamache K, Gallagher CM, Ang KK, Wilson C, Okreglak V, Ashkenazi A, Hann B, Nader K, Arkin MR, Renslo AR, Sonenberg N, Walter P. Pharmacological brake-release of mRNA translation enhances cognitive memory. Elife. 2013; 2:e00498.
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  19. Cho JA, Lee AH, Platzer B, Cross BC, Gardner BM, De Luca H, Luong P, Harding HP, Glimcher LH, Walter P, Fiebiger E, Ron D, Kagan JC, Lencer WI. The unfolded protein response element IRE1a senses bacterial proteins invading the ER to activate RIG-I and innate immune signaling. Cell Host Microbe. 2013 May 15; 13(5):558-69.
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  20. Murley A, Lackner LL, Osman C, West M, Voeltz GK, Walter P, Nunnari J. ER-associated mitochondrial division links the distribution of mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA in yeast. Elife. 2013; 2:e00422.
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