Article ID: CBB001201291

Earl Sutherland (1915--1975) and the Discovery of Cyclic Amp (2012)


In 1945, Earl Sutherland (1915-1975) and associates began studies of the mechanism of hormone-induced glycogen breakdown in the liver. In 1956, their efforts culminated in the identification of cyclic AMP, an ancient molecule generated in many cell types in response to hormonal and other extracellular signals. Cyclic AMP, the original "second messenger," transmits such signals through pathways that regulate a diversity of cellular functions and capabilities: metabolic processes such as lipolysis and glycogenolysis; hormone secretion; the permeability of ion channels; gene expression; cell proliferation and survival. Indeed, it can be argued that the discovery of cyclic AMP initiated the study of intracellular signaling pathways, a major focus of contemporary biomedical inquiry. This review presents relevant details of Sutherland's career; summarizes key contributions of his mentors, Carl and Gerti Cori, to the knowledge of glycogen metabolism (contributions that were the foundation for his own research); describes the experiments that led to his identification, isolation, and characterization of cyclic AMP; assesses the significance of his work; and considers some aspects of the impact of cyclic nucleotide research on clinical medicine. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

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Authors & Contributors
Stoff, Heiko
Grote, Mathias
Epstein, Randi Hutter
Powell, Russell
Worboys, Michael
Watkins, Elizabeth Siegel
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Science as Culture
International Studies in the Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
W. W. Norton & Co.
University of Chicago Press
Rowman & Littlefield
Johns Hopkins University Press
Franz Steiner Verlag
Cellular biology
Metabolism; physiological chemistry
Longino, Helen
Mitchell, Peter D.
Szathmáry, Eörs
Smith, John Maynard
Meyerhof, Otto
Berman, Louis
Time Periods
20th century, late
20th century
19th century
21st century
United States
Great Britain
Manchester (England)
The American Society for Cell Biology

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