How stress hormones unleash a surge of energy was explained by Earl Sutherland, a biochemist born 84 years ago today
. Sutherland found that adrenaline accelerates the breakdown of sugar in the liver to provide quick energy during moments of stress. He later discovered that the hormone stimulates individual cells in two steps. First, it latches onto a receptor on the cell surface. The receptor then triggers the release inside the cell of a second signal: a molecule called cyclic AMP (cAMP). Sutherland then determined that cAMP has a larger role, serving as an intermediary for many hormones regulating metabolism in both simple and complex organisms. For this fundamental breakthrough, he received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1971. He died 3 years later.
[Source: Emily McMurray, Ed. Notable Twentieth Century Scientists. Gale Research Inc. ITP. 1995.]