Hartmut Michel is a German biochemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1988 for his work on membrane protein crystallization and the explanation of the three-dimensional structure of the photosynthetic reaction center of the purple bacterium Rhodopseudomonas viridis. Robert Huber and Johann Deisenhofer were his co-winners. The most significant chemical reaction on the planet is photosynthesis. Hartmut Michel, Robert Huber, and Johann Deisenhofer conducted research that resulted in a fundamental breakthrough in the understanding of the light reaction in photosynthesis. Michel was the first to observe three-dimensional crystals in the membrane protein bacteriorhodopsin, in addition to his work in the photosynthetic reaction centre. He was the first scientist to crystallize a membrane complex, the photosynthetic reaction system, in 1981, allowing for X-ray structure investigation. His groundbreaking work has been used in a variety of sectors, including medicine. He is currently the Director of the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics’ Department of Molecular Membrane Biology in Frankfurt am Main, as well as an Adjunct Professor at Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main.
Childhood and Adolescence
Hartmut Michel was born to Karl and Frieda Michel on July 18, 1948 in Ludwigsburg, Federal Republic of Germany. He was the couple’s eldest son. His father worked as a factory joiner, and his mother worked as a dressmaker.
Michel, who was academically gifted, excelled in school. Michel enrolled in a high school as a result of his mother’s encouragement. He spent the most of his time reading books on archaeology, ethnology, geography, zoology, and other topics. History, biology, chemistry, and physics were his favorite studies.
Michel applied to the University of Tubingen to study biochemistry after completing his military service. He was able to devote a significant amount of time to both of his favorite disciplines as a result of the course.
The complexities of biology and the reactions of chemistry enthralled him. In addition, rather than completing lab classes in Tubingen, he took advantage of the opportunity to work in several biochemical labs for a year.
Michel worked on ATPase activity of halobacteria in Dieter Oesterhelt’s laboratory at the Friedrich Miescher-Laboratorium of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft for the practical portion of his diploma.
Michel worked at Dieter Oesterhelt’s laboratory after receiving his diploma in 1974. The laboratory was relocated to Wurzburg the next year.
He earned his PhD in 1977. His thesis focused on the electrochemical proton gradient across the halobacterial cell membrane and the internal levels of adenosine di- and triphosphate.
A Career of Hartmut Michel
Michel continued his study at the Oesterhelt laboratory after completing his PhD. To achieve light-driven amino acid uptake, he first explored fusing delipidated bacteriorhodopsin with bacterial vesicles. He put the delipidated bacteriorhodopsin in the freezer, which caused solid, glass-like aggregates to form. The residue persuaded him that membrane proteins might be crystallized.
After great effort, Michel discovered the first true three-dimensional crystals of bacteriorhodopsin in 1979. As a result of his achievement, he decided to postpone his post-doctoral studies on sexual differentiation in animals at Susumu Ohno in Duarte, California.
Michel moved to the Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie in Martinsried, near Munich, with Dieter Oesterhelt, where he became a department head and director. Michel planned to engage with Robert Huber and his colleagues at the Max-Planck-Institut, who had built a highly productive department for X-ray crystallographic protein structure study.
Michel worked at the MRC in Cambridge, England, for four months in 1980, undertaking X-ray studies with Richard Henderson. During this time, he was working on refining the crystallization procedure.
Michel ultimately succeeded in 1981 when he acquired the first crystals of the photosynthetic reaction centre from the purple bacterium Rhodopseudomonas viridis, after several fruitless attempts. The first reaction center crystal was X-rayed in September of that year, and it proved out to be of exceptional quality.
Michel worked with Robert Huber and Johann Hans Deisenhofer in 1982. They used X-ray crystallography to figure out how the more than 10,000 atoms that make up the protein complex fit together. Their findings contributed to a better understanding of photosynthesis mechanisms, revealed parallels between plant and bacterial photosynthetic processes, and provided a method for crystallizing membrane proteins.
Deisenhofer established the three-dimensional structure of a protein complex present in photosynthetic bacteria with the help of Michel and Huber. A photosynthetic reaction center, a membrane protein complex, was recognized to play a critical role in the beginning of a simple type of photosynthesis.
Michel received various offers as a result of his accomplishment. He did, however, accept a post as Director at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics’ Department of Molecular Membrane Biology in Frankfurt am Main, where he has worked since 1987. He has also been an adjunct lecturer at Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main since 1989.
Major Projects of Hartmut Michel
Hartmut Michel collaborated with Robert Huber and Johann Deisenhofer on photosynthesis, one of life’s most fundamental processes. A photosynthetic reaction centre’s three-dimensional structure was defined by the trio. It is known to be important at the beginning of a primitive sort of photosynthesis.
Achievements & Awards
Michel was given the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft’s Leibniz Prize in 1986, the highest accolade in German research.
For his work in identifying the three-dimensional structure of a photosynthetic reaction centre, he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Johann Deisenhofer and Robert Huber in 1988.
In the same year, he and Johann Deisenhofer were awarded the Otto-Bayer-Prize.
Michel was awarded the Keilin Medal by the British Biochemical Society in 2008.
In 1995, he was elected to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences as a foreign member.
He was made a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 2005. (ForMemRS).
Personal History and Legacy
Elena Olkhova and Michel Olkhova tied the knot. Andrea, the couple’s daughter, was born in 1981, and Robert Joachim, the couple’s son, was born in 1984.
Estimated Net Worth
Hartmut Michel is one of the wealthiest biochemists and one of the most well-known biochemists. Hartmut Michel’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.