Sir John Ernest Walker
Sir John Ernest Walker born 1941, helped unravel the process that creates ATP, the molecule that transports energy throughout the body.
John Ernest Walker is a British chemist who shared one of the two 1997 Nobel Prizes in Chemistry with American Paul Boyer for their explanation of the enzymatic process that creates adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The other prize went to Jens Skou of Denmark for the first discovery of an ion-transporting enzyme, Na+, K+-ATPase. ATP is a carrier of energy in all living organisms – transporting the fuel value of food to power various biological functions – everything from building new cells, to movement, to transmission of nerve messages. It was first discovered by German chemist Karl Lohmann in 1929. During 1939–41 Fritz Lipmann (medcine laureate, 1953) showed ATP was the universal carrier of chemical energy in the cell, and in 1948 it was first synthesised chemically by Scotsman Alexander Todd (chemistry laureate, 1957).
Boyer began his studies of ATP in the 1950s, using isotope techniques to find how the ATP-producing enzyme “ATP synthase” functions and how it uses energy to create new ATP. He and his team at UCLA used biochemical data to propose a mechanism for how ATP is formed from adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and a third inorganic phosphate. Walker and his colleagues at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, determined the structure of the enzyme and confirmed Boyer’s theory.
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