Sonenberg was born in a camp for displaced persons in Wetzlar, Germany and grew up in Israel. He received a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Microbiology and Immunology from Tel-Aviv University and his Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry from the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1976. He later held a Chaim Weizmann postdoctoral fellowship at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology.
He joined McGill University in 1979.
He is a James McGill professor of biochemistry at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He was an HHMI international research scholar from 1997 to 2011 and is now a senior international research scholar. He is best known for his seminal contributions to our understanding of translation, and notable for the discovery of the messenger of Ribonucleic Acid 5" cap-binding protein, eIF4E, the rate-limiting component of the eukaryotic translation apparatus.
He received a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science
Sonenberg"s primary research has been on the translational control of protein synthesis. Notably, he discovered the messenger of Ribonucleic Acid 5" cap-binding protein, eIF4E, the rate-limiting component of the eukaryotic translation apparatus, and also discovered the regulation of eIF4E by the eIF4EBPs.
In addition, he has helped to decipher the roles of various other proteins involved in translation including the roles of other subunits of eIF4F (of which eIF4E is a member) including the helicase activity which scans messenger of Ribonucleic Acid to find the initiation codon. Sonenberg also discovered the Internal ribosome entry site (IRES) mode of translation, the cap-independent initiation of translation, which is critical for some messenger of Ribonucleic Acid involved in stress, cell cycling and apoptosis.
His work in basic science has had an impact in the study of cancer, including the realization that eIF4E over expression is prominent in many cancers, and has suggested its utility as a tumor marker.
Currently, he has expanded his research into topics such as the roles of translation in neurobiology and synaptic plasticity. Presently, his lab works on translational control in cancer, oncolytic viruses as anti-cancer drugs, microRNA control of translation, and translational control of plasticity, learning and memory.
Royal Society; National Academy of Sciences.