Julius Axelrod

Julius Axelrod

Infobox Scientist
name = Julius Axelrod
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image_width =150px
caption = Julius Axelrod won a Nobel Prize in 1970
birth_date = May 30, 1912
birth_place = New York City
death_date = December 29 2004
death_place = Bethesda, Maryland
residence = Bethesda, Maryland
citizenship =
nationality = American
ethnicity =
field = Biochemistry
work_institutions =
alma_mater =
doctoral_advisor =
doctoral_students =
known_for = Catecholamine metabolism
author_abbrev_bot =
author_abbrev_zoo =
influences =
influenced =
prizes = Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1970
religion = Atheist
footnotes =

Julius Axelrod (May 30, 1912 – December 29 2004) was an American biochemist. He won a share of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1970 along with Bernard Katz and 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 gland and 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 York in 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 University in 1941. Although he became an atheist early 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.


Analgesic research

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-aspirin analgesics 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.

Catecholamine research

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 system and its main neurotransmitters, epinephrine and norepinephrine. During this time, Axelrod also conducted research on codeine, morphine, methamphetamine, and ephedrine and 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 epinephrine and 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 melatonin is generated from tryptophan, as is the neurotransmitter serotonin. The rates of synthesis and release follows the body's circadian rhythm driven by the suprachiasmatic nucleus within 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.

Political views

After receiving the Nobel Prize in 1970, Axelrod used his visibility to advocate several science policy issues. In 1973 U.S. President Richard Nixon created an agency with the specific goal of curing cancer. Axelrod, along with fellow Nobel-laurates Marshall W. Nirenberg and 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 Scientists and the International Academy of Science.


*U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Profiles in Science: The Julius Axelrod Papers."
id = PMID:18175546
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18175546
first=Solomon H
publication-date=2007 Mar
title=Julius Axelrod.
periodical=Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society

id = PMID:16758321
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16758321
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

id = PMID:16247945
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16247945
publication-date=2005 Apr
title=Julius Axelrod (1912-2004).
periodical=Indian J. Physiol. Pharmacol.

id = PMID:15738927
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15738927
first=J T
publication-date=2005 Mar
title=Julius Axelrod (1912-2004).
periodical=Mol. Psychiatry
doi = 10.1038/sj.mp.4001650

id = PMID:15703735
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15703735
first=Solomon H
publication-date=2005 Feb 10
title=Obituary: Julius Axelrod (1912-2004).
doi = 10.1038/433593a

id = PMID:15688459
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15688459
title=Julius Axelrod.
doi = 10.1016/S0140-6736(05)17814-3

id = PMID:10485764
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10485764
first=T N
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).

id = PMID:7982784
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7982784
publication-date=1994 Nov
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.

id = PMID:8309264
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8309264
first=M A
first2=R A
publication-date=1994 Feb
title=Julius Axelrod--American biochemist and Nobel Prize winner.
periodical=Mayo Clin. Proc.

id = PMID:1612020
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1612020
publication-date=1992 Jul
title=Remembrance: Leslie L. Iversen, Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories, Neuroscience Research Centre, Harlow, England. "The Axelrod Lab, 1964-1965".

id = PMID:3042140
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3042140
publication-date=1988 Mar
title=Special issue: Tribute to Julius Axelrod on the occasion of his 75th birthday.
periodical=Cell. Mol. Neurobiol.

id = PMID:4319740
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4319740
publication-date=1970 Oct 24
title=Neurophysiologists honored (Ulf von Euler, Julius Axelrod, Bernard Katz).

id = PMID:4394111
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4394111
publication-date=1970 Oct 23
title=Nobel prize: 3 share 1970 award for medical research. 1. Von Euler and Axelrod.

External links

* [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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