ATP first discovered in 1929

ATP was first discovered by the German chemist Karl Lohmann. Its structure is established some years later. In 1948 Alexander Todd (UK) synthesises ATP chemically.

Vladimir Engelhart (Russia) notes in 1935 that muscle contractions require ATP. Between 1939 and 1941 Fritz Lipmann (USA) shows that ATP is the main bearer of chemical energy in the cell. He coins the phrase “energy-rich phosphate bonds”.

ATP synthase

1937 – Herman Kalckar (Denmark) establishes that ATP synthase is linked with cell respiration.

1961 – The American Ephraim Racker isolates the F1 part of the ATP synthase.

1961 – Peter Mitchell (UK) shows that cell respiration leads to differing concentrations of hydrogen ions (pH) inside and outside the mitochondrial membrane (the chemiosmotic hypothesis).

1964 – Paul D. Boyer proposes that ATP is synthesised through structural changes in the ATP synthase enzyme.

1973 – Boyer discovers that the step in ATP synthesis which requires energy is the release of ATP and the binding of ADP together with Pi (“The Binding Change Mechanism”).

1981 – John E. Walker determines the DNA sequence of the genes encoding the proteins in ATP synthase.

1994 – The structure of the F1 part of the ATP synthase is determined by Walker and co-workers.

1996-1997 – The hypothesis that parts of ATP synthase rotate during the synthesis and hydrolysis of ATP is demonstrated chemically (Richard Cross, USA), spectroscopically (Wolfgang Junge, Germany) and microscopically (Masasuke Yoshida, Japan).

The Na+, K+-ATPase ion pump

1950’s – British researchers Richard Keynes and Alan Hodgkin note:

– that Na+ flows into the cell upon nerve stimulation
– that Na+ is probably transported out of the cell when ATP is consumed
– that Na+ transport from the cell can be inhibited by inhibiting ATP synthesis.

1957 – Jens C. Skou finds an ATPase that is activated by sodium and potassium ions. This is the first ion pump to be discovered.

1961  Other ion pumps requiring ATP are discovered.