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Anfinsen, Christian (Boehmer)

sequence shape amino molecule

1916–95) US biochemist: made discoveries related to the shape and activity of enzymes.

Educated at Swarthmore and Harvard, Anfinsen afterwards worked at Harvard and from 1950 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. In 1960 and W H Stein (1911–80) found the sequence of the 124 amino acids which make up ribonuclease and it became the first enzyme for which the full sequence was known. However, it was clear that enzymes owe their special catalytic ability not only to the sequence of amino acid units but also to the specific shape adopted by the chain-like molecule. Anfinsen showed that, if this shape is disturbed, it can be restored merely by putting the molecule into the precise environment (of temperature, salt concentration, etc) favourable for it, when it spontaneously takes up the one shape (out of many possibilities) that restores its enzymic activity. He deduced that all the requirements for this precise three-dimensional assembly must be present in the chain sequence; and he showed that other proteins behaved similarly. He shared the Nobel Prize for chemistry with Moore and Stein in 1972.

Anfossi, Pasquale [next] [back] Anet, (Jean-Jacques-) Baptiste

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