- Julius Axelrod
name = Julius Axelrod
caption = Julius Axelrod won a Nobel Prize in 1970
May 30, 1912
New York City
December 29 2004
nationality = American
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicinein 1970
Julius Axelrod (
May 30, 1912– December 29 2004) was an American biochemist. He won a share of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicinein 1970 along with Bernard Katzand Ulf von Euler. The Nobel Committee honored him for his work on the release and reuptake of catecholamine neurotransmitters, a class of chemicals in the brain that include epinephrine, norepinephrine, and, as was later discovered, dopamine. Axelrod also made major contributions to the understanding of the pineal glandand how it is regulated during the sleep-wake cycle.
Personal life and education
Axelrod was born in
New York City, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland. He received his bachelor's degree in biology from the College of the City of New Yorkin 1933. Axelrod wanted to become a physician, but was rejected from every medical school to which he applied. He worked briefly as a laboratory technician at New York University, then in 1935 he got a job with the New York City Department of Health testing vitamin supplements added to food. He injured his left eye when an ammonia bottle in the lab exploded; he would wear an eyepatch for the rest of his life. While working at the Department of Health, he attended night school and received his master's in sciences degree from New York Universityin 1941. Although he became an atheistearly in life and resented the strict upbringing of his parents’ religion, he identified with Jewish culture and joined several international fights against anti-Semitism. [Craver, Carl F: "Axelrod, Julius", "Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography" Vol. 19 p. 122. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2008.] His wife of 53 years, Sally Taub Axelrod, died in 1992. At his death, he was survived by two sons, Paul and Alfred, and three grandchildren.
In 1946, Axelrod took a position working under Bernard Brodie at Goldwater Memorial Hospital. The research experience and mentorship Axelrod received from Brodie would launch him on his research career. Brodie and Axelrod's research focused on how
analgesics (pain-killers) work. During the 1940s, users of non- aspirinanalgesics were developing a blood condition known as methemoglobinemia. Axelrod and Brodie discovered that acetanilide, the main ingredient of these pain-killers, was to blame. They found that one of the metabolites also was an analgesic. They recommended that this metabolite, acetaminophen(paracetamol), better known as Tylenol, be used instead.
In 1949, Axelrod began work at the National Heart Institute, forerunner of the
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute(NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health(NIH). He examined the mechanisms and effects of caffeine, which led him to an interest in the sympathetic nervous systemand its main neurotransmitters, epinephrine and norepinephrine. During this time, Axelrod also conducted research on codeine, morphine, methamphetamine, and ephedrineand performed some of the first experiments on LSD. Realizing that he could not advance his career without a Ph.D., he took a leave of absence from the NIH in 1954 to attend George Washington University. Allowed to submit some of his previous research toward his degree, he graduated one year later, in 1955. Axelrod then returned to the NIH and began some of the key research of his career.
Axelrod received his Nobel Prize for his work on the release, reuptake, and storage of the neurotransmitters
epinephrineand norepinephrine, also known as adrenaline and noradrenaline. Working on monoamine oxidase(MAO) inhibitors in 1957, Axelrod showed that catecholamine neurotransmitters do not merely stop working after they are released into the synapse. Instead, neurotransmitters are recaptured ("reuptake") by the pre-synaptic nerve ending, and recycled for later transmissions. He theorized that epinephrine is held in tissues in an inactive form and is liberated by the nervous system when needed. This research laid the groundwork for later selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, which block the reuptake of another neurotransmitter, serotonin.
In 1958, Axelrod also discovered and characterized the enzyme
catechol-O-methyl transferase, which is involved in the breakdown of catecholamines.cite web |url=http://www.jbc.org/cgi/reprint/233/3/702 |title=Enzymatic O-Methylation of Epinephrine and Other Catechols -- Axelrod and Tomchick 233 (3): 702 -- Journal of Biological Chemistry |format= |work= |accessdate=]
Pineal gland research
Some of Axelrod's later research focused on the pineal gland. He and his colleagues showed that the hormone
melatoninis generated from tryptophan, as is the neurotransmitter serotonin. The rates of synthesis and release follows the body's circadian rhythmdriven by the suprachiasmatic nucleuswithin the hypothalamus. Axelrod and colleagues went on to show that melatonin had wide-ranging effects throughout the central nervous system, allowing the pineal gland to function as a biological clock. He continued to work at the National Institute of Mental Health at the NIH until his death in 2004.
After receiving the Nobel Prize in 1970, Axelrod used his visibility to advocate several science policy issues. In 1973 U.S. President
Richard Nixoncreated an agency with the specific goal of curing cancer. Axelrod, along with fellow Nobel-laurates Marshall W. Nirenbergand Christian Anfinsen, organized a petition by scientists opposed to the new agency, on the grounds that by focusing solely on cancer, public funding would not be available for research into other, more solvable, medical problems. Axelrod also lent his name to several protests against the imprisonment of scientists in the Soviet Union.Dr. Axelrod was a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Federation of American Scientistsand the International Academy of Science.
*U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Profiles in Science: The Julius Axelrod Papers."
periodical=Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society
title=Special issue in honor of Julius Axelrod.
periodical=Cell. Mol. Neurobiol.
pages=4 p preceding 343, 343-1055
doi = 10.1007/s10571-006-9074-4
title=Julius Axelrod (1912-2004).
periodical=Indian J. Physiol. Pharmacol.
title=Julius Axelrod (1912-2004).
doi = 10.1038/sj.mp.4001650
publication-date=2005 Feb 10
title=Obituary: Julius Axelrod (1912-2004).
doi = 10.1038/433593a
doi = 10.1016/S0140-6736(05)17814-3
publication-date=1999 Sep 4
title=The Nobel chronicles. 1970: Bernard Katz (b 1911), Ulf Svante von Euler (1905-1983), and Julius Axelrod (b 1912).
title=Julius Axelrod, Bernard Katz and Ulf von Euler--Nobel Prize winners for the discovery of mechanisms of nerve signal transmission.
periodical=Isr. J. Med. Sci.
title=Julius Axelrod--American biochemist and Nobel Prize winner.
periodical=Mayo Clin. Proc.
title=Remembrance: Leslie L. Iversen, Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories, Neuroscience Research Centre, Harlow, England. "The Axelrod Lab, 1964-1965".
title=Special issue: Tribute to Julius Axelrod on the occasion of his 75th birthday.
periodical=Cell. Mol. Neurobiol.
publication-date=1970 Oct 24
title=Neurophysiologists honored (Ulf von Euler, Julius Axelrod, Bernard Katz).
publication-date=1970 Oct 23
title=Nobel prize: 3 share 1970 award for medical research. 1. Von Euler and Axelrod.
* [http://www.nobel.se/medicine/laureates/1970/axelrod-bio.html Nobel Prize Biography]
* [http://www.sfn.org/skins/main/pdf/history_of_neuroscience/hon_vol_1/c2.pdf Autobiography (for Society for Neuroscience; 2.2MB pdf)]
* [http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/HH/ NIH Profiles in Science]
* [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35661-2004Dec29.html Obituary] at washingtonpost.com
* Kanigel, Robert, "Apprentice to Genius" ISBN 0801847575.
* Sabbatini, R.M.E.: [http://www.cerebromente.org.br/n17/history/neurons5_i.htm Neurons and synapses. The history of its discovery IV. Chemical transmission] . "Brain & Mind", 2004.
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