Phosphate Queen

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Science News Staff
1999-04-20 18:00
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Today

is the birthday of Gertrude Perlmann, a pioneer in the chemistry of proteins, particularly phosphoproteins.

Perlmann, who was born in Czechoslovakia but later became a U.S. citizen, was one of the first to recognize the importance of phosphate groups in the structure of many proteins; she showed that phosphates added to or stripped from a protein can dramatically alter its activity. Perlmann discovered that enzymes called phosphatases can remove the phosphate from egg albumin protein.

Perlmann also provided key insights into a human digestive enzyme called pepsin. She determined the structural difference between pepsin and its precursor pepsinogen, analyzed the proteins' shapes, and determined how temperature and chemical conditions influence their structures. Perlmann died in 1974.

Source: Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A biographical dictionary (Greenwood Press, 1997).

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