60 YEARS OF POMC: Lipotropin and beta-endorphin: a perspective

    1. D G Smyth
    1. Department of Endocrinology, William Harvey Research Institute, London, UK
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to D G Smyth; Email: derekgsmyth{at}live.co.uk


    Many important fields of research had a humble origin. In the distant past, A J P Martin’s discovery that amino acids could be separated by paper chromatography and Moore and Stein’s use of columns for quantitative amino acid analysis provided the first steps towards the determination of structure in complex biologically active molecules. They opened the door to reveal the essential relationship that exists between structure and function. In molecular endocrinology, for example, striking advances have been made by chemists with their expertise in the identification of structure working with biologists who contributed valuable knowledge and experience. Advantage was gained from the convergence of different background, and it is notable that the whole is greater than the sum. In the determination of structure, it may be recalled that four of the world’s great pioneers (Archibald Martin, Rodney Porter, Fred Sanger and Vincent du Vigneaud) were acknowledged for their fundamental contributions when individually they were awarded the Nobel Prize. They foresaw that the identification of structure would prove of outstanding importance in the future. Indeed, study of the structures of β-endorphin and enkephalin and the different forms of opiate activity they engender has led to a transformation in our understanding of chemical transmission in the brain.

    • Received 16 February 2016
    • Accepted 22 February 2016
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 1 May 2016
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