Edwin G. Krebs was a renowned American biochemist who shared the 1992 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Edmond H. Fischer. Krebs’ father died when he was fifteen, and the incident had a tragic effect on his otherwise happy childhood. He began contemplating his future even as a high school student. At the age of twenty-five, he entered the Washington University School of Medicine and earned his medical degrees. After a brief stint in the military, he was drawn to basic research and accepted a position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Washington in Seattle. He began working on the enzymology of phosphorylase there with Edmond H. Fischer and within a short period of time discovered a biochemical process called reversible protein phosphorylation, which earned them the coveted Nobel Prize many years later. Later on, they worked independently on various aspects of the process. He possessed an enviable intellect. His extraordinary research output established him as an icon in his scientific community. Additionally, he was a devoted mentor to a large number of students and postdoctoral fellows. Many of them recall him as a gentle and kind mentor.
Childhood & Adolescence
Edwin Gerhard Krebs was born in Lansing, Iowa, on June 6, 1918. His father, William Carl Krebs, was a Presbyterian minister, and his mother, Louise Helen (Stegeman) Krebs, had previously worked as a teacher. Edwin was the third child of his parents.
Due to his father’s profession, they were frequently on the move. They eventually settled in Greenville, Illinois, in or around 1924. The town had excellent schools, and Edwin relished his life.
He was an excellent student who also enjoyed hiking, fishing, and collecting stamps. He built a ham radio some time ago to communicate with a friend who had relocated to Chicago.
William Carl Krebs died unexpectedly in 1933. Edwin was in his first year of high school at the time, while his elder brothers attended the University of Illinois. To save money, his mother relocated the family to Urbana, where Edwin attended Urbana High School.
Financially, it was a difficult period. Edwin, like his brothers, took a part-time job to make ends meet.
Simultaneously, he began to consider his future. Chemistry and medicine both appealed to him because he believed they would allow him to earn a living more easily.
He enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1936, majoring in chemistry, physics, and biology. He narrowed his options to organic chemistry or medicine by the fourth year. This was also the year he encountered scientific research for the first time, an experience he thoroughly enjoyed.
Edwin Krebs entered Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis on a scholarship in 1940, following his BS degree from the University of Illinois. Not only was he educated to become a physician here, but he was also introduced to medical research.
Career of Edwin G
Edwin G. Krebs earned his medical degree in 1943 and completed an 18-month residency at Barnes Hospital, also in St. Louis. Upon completion of the course, he enlisted in the US Navy as a medical officer on active duty in support of the war effort.
Krebs was discharged from the Navy in 1946. Although he desired to join hospital duty, he was not immediately assigned a scope. He then joined Washington University in St. Louis as a postdoctoral fellow and began working on the interaction of protamine with rabbit muscle phosphorylase under the supervision of Carl and Gerty Cori.
Krebs’ postdoctoral tenure concluded in 1948. He had already made up his mind to continue his research work at that point. As a result, when the offer came, he accepted the position of Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Washington, Seattle.
He initially focused on DPNH-X, a NADH derivative. However, when Edmond H. Fischer arrived at the university in 1953, ‘the two Eds’ began working on phosphorylase’s enzymology. Because the department placed a premium on protein chemistry and enzymology, it provided an ideal environment for their research.
It is worth noting that Krebs previously collaborated with the Coris on rabbit muscle phosphorylase. They discovered that AMP had to act as a cofactor for the phosphorylase to function.
Fischer had previously worked at the University of Geneva with Prof. Kurt H. Meyer, Head of the Department of Organic Chemistry, on the purification of potato phosphorylase. However, they did not require AMP in that location.
Krebs and Fischer now understood that each enzyme catalyzed the same type of reaction using the same coenzyme.
As a result, it was ruled out that muscle phosphorylase required AMP as a cofactor but potato phosphorylase did not. They have now resolved to resolve this impasse.
They did not succeed in their mission, but they discovered that phosphorylation-dephosphorylation regulates muscle phosphorylase and that the process, dubbed reversible protein phosphorylation, regulates a variety of cellular processes. Failure of this process results in a variety of fatal diseases.
Krebs was appointed full professor at the University of Washington in 1957. He and Fischer have been working separately on different aspects of phosphorylation for some time now. Krebs’ group began focusing on the molecular mechanism by which cyclic AMP promotes the reaction of phosphorylase b.
Krebs transferred from the University of Washington in Seattle to the University of California in 1968. Krebs became the founding chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of California. He recruited the best faculty and demonstrated that he was equally adept at administration in this capacity.
He also joined the editorial board of the ‘Journal of Biological Chemistry’ at some point and was named one of its associate editors in 1972. He held this position until 1992.
Krebs returned to the University of Washington in Seattle in 1977 as Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology. Simultaneously, he was appointed to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as an investigator.
Krebs refocused the department on research and training of junior scientists in 1983, after reestablishing the department. He has since begun working on new signal transduction problems. His group made significant contributions to the analysis of phosphotyrosine signaling events. His work later aided in the discovery of a novel phosphorylation cascade known as the MAP kinase pathway.
Krebs also authored a number of books. The most significant of these are ‘The Enzymes’ (1970, with Paul D. Boyer and D S Sigman), ‘Protein Phosphorylation’ (1981, with Ora M Rosen), and ‘Control by Phosphorylation’ (1986, with Paul D. Boyer).
Significant Works of Edwin G
Krebs is best known for his research on reversible protein phosphorylation, a biochemical process that regulates cellular activity. He began his research with Edmond H. Fischer with the goal of determining how muscles obtain energy from glycogen and the role of AMP in phosphorylation.
By the mid-1950s, they had discovered that enzymes regulate the phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of proteins. Protein kinase is a kinase enzyme that transfers a phosphate group from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to a protein. This activates the protein, causing it to become involved in biological reactions.
A protein phosphatase then deactivates the protein by removing the phosphate. The process regulates a variety of biological functions, including glucose mobilization from glycogen, transplant rejection prevention, and the development of cancers such as chronic myeloid leukemia.
Edwin G. Krebs and Edmond H. Fischer shared the 1992 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries about reversible protein phosphorylation as a biological regulatory mechanism.”
In 1989, Columbia University awarded Krebs the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize for Biology or Biochemistry and the Laskar Foundation’s Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research.
Personal History and Legacies
Edwin Krebs met Virginia Deedy French, a student nurse at Washington University, while working at the Barnes Hospital. On March 10, 1945, they married. Although she earned a degree, she abandoned her career to support her husband and served as an inspiration to many.
Edwin and Deedy remained together until Edwin’s 2007 death. Sally Herman, Robert Krebs, and Martha Abrego were their three children.
Krebs maintained an active lifestyle until he was nearly eighty years old. He finally shut down his laboratory at the University of Washington in 1997. Even after that, he attended research seminars on a regular basis and exhibited a keen interest in the field’s latest developments.
Krebs died on December 21, 2009, at a chronic care facility in Seattle, Washington, of progressive heart failure. His wife, three children, and five grandchildren survive him.
Estimated Net Worth
The net worth of Edwin G is unavailable.