Dieter Söll

Professor of Chemistry
Member of Yale faculty since 1967

Research Interests


A contributor to over 630 scientific papers, Dieter Söll’s research interests have varied widely from genetics, molecular biology, genomics, and evolution of protein biosynthesis to gravity perception in plants. The recurring theme of his research is the understanding of the role of transfer RNA and aminoacyl‐tRNA synthetases in interpreting the genetic code. Currently he is working on expanding the genetic code in the realm of synthetic biology.

Research in the Söll laboratory covers a broad range of topics unified by a single problem – evolution of the genetic code. We explore the genetic code translation in a wide range of living species. Through genetics, biochemistry, structural analysis, and molecular biology, we are studying bacterial, archaeal and eukaryotic systems to uncover new strategies of genetic code expression. We extensively use this knowledge to develop new tools for synthetic biology and extend the chemistry of living systems by enabling robust and efficient genetic encoding of unnatural amino acids and amino acid-like molecules in a test tube and in a living cell.


Ph.D. Stuttgart University, 1962
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1962-65
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1965-67


Guggenheim Fellow, 1972, 1989
Fellow, American Association of the Advancement of Science; Alexander von Humbolt U.S. Senior Scientist Award, 1988
Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology; Member, National Academy of Sciences

Distinstions and Awards

Dieter Söll was a Visiting Professor of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the recipient of a Humboldt Research Award, and twice a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Dieter Söll is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, an Associate Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), a corresponding member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1971 Dieter Söll became interested in the training of undergraduates from diverse backgrounds and created a summer research program that later became a model for other educational institutions. This led to two awards: Tougaloo College, Minority Access to Research Careers Award (2001) and Yale’s Bouchet Leadership Award Medal in Minority Graduate Education (2002). In 1974 he was co-founder of a highly successful scientific journal: Nucleic Acids Research (current impact factor: 11.501). Dieter mentored many graduate students and postdocs in his career; in 2015 he was awarded Yale’s Postdoctoral Mentoring Prize

Recent Publications

Tharp, J. M.; Ad, O.; Amikura, K.; Ward, F. R.; Garcia, E. M.; Cate, J. H. D.; Schepartz, A.; Söll, D., Initiation of protein synthesis with non-canonical amino acids in vivo. Angew Chem Int Ed 2020.

Melnikov, S.; Kwok, H.-S.; Manakongtreecheep, K.; van den Elzen, A.; Thoreen, C. C.; Söll, D., Archaeal ribosomal proteins possess nuclear localization signal-type motifs: implications for the origin of the cell nucleusMol Biol Evol 2019.

Ad, O.; Hoffman, K. S.; Cairns, A. G.; Featherston, A. L.; Miller, S. J.; Söll, D.; Schepartz, A., Translation of diverse aramid- and 1,3-dicarbonyl-peptides by wild type ribosomes in vitroACS Cent Sci 2019, 5 (7), 1289-1294.

Hoffman, K. S.; Vargas-Rodriguez, O.; Bak, D. W.; Mukai, T.; Woodward, L. K.; Weerapana, E.; Söll, D.; Reynolds, N. M., A cysteinyl-tRNA synthetase variant confers resistance against selenite toxicity and decreases selenocysteine misincorporationJ Biol Chem 2019, 294 (34), 12855-12865.

Melnikov, S. V.; Söll, D., Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetases and tRNAs for an Expanded Genetic Code: What Makes them Orthogonal? Int J Mol Sci 2019 20 (8).

Kwok, H. S.; Vargas-Rodriguez, O.; Melnikov, S. V.; Söll, D., Engineered Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetases with Improved Selectivity toward Noncanonical Amino AcidsACS Chem Biol 2019, 14 (4), 603-612.

Melo Czekster, C.; Robertson, W. E.; Walker, A. S.; Söll, D.; Schepartz, A., In vivo biosynthesis of a β-amino-acid-containing proteinJ Am Chem Soc 2016, 138 (16), 5194-7.

A. Curnow, M. Ibba, & D. Söll, D. tRNA-dependent asparagine formation. Nature1996, 382, 589-590.

M. Ibba, S. Morgan, A.W. Curnow, D.R. Pridmore, U.C. Vothknecht, W. Gardner, W. Lin, C.R. Woese, & D. Söll, D. A euryarchaeal lysyl-tRNA synthetase: resemblance to class I synthetases. Science 1997, 278, 1119-1122.

C. Stathopoulos, T. Li, R. Longman, U.C. Vothknecht, H. Becker, M. Ibba, & D. Söll, D. One polypeptide with two aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase activities. Science2000, 287, 479-482.

D.L. Tumbula, H.D. Becker, W.Z. Chang, & D. Söll. Domain-specific recruitment of amide amino acids for protein synthesis. Nature 2000, 407, 106-110.

C.R. Woese, G. Olsen, M. Ibba, D. Söll, D. Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, the genetic code, and the evolutionary process. Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. 2000, 64, 202-236.