Johann Deisenhofer

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Johann Deisenhofer (1943)

German biochemist who, along with Hartmut Michel and Robert Huber, received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1988 for their determination of the structure of certain proteins that are essential to photosynthesis. Deisenhofer earned his doctorate from the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried, W.Ger., in 1974. He conducted research there until 1987, when he joined the scientific staff at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Dallas, Texas.

Together with Michel and Huber, Deisenhofer set out to study the structure of a protein complex found in certain photosynthetic bacteria. This protein, called a photosynthetic reaction centre, was known to play a crucial role in initiating a simple type of photosynthesis. Between 1982 and 1985, the three scientists used X-ray crystallography to determine the exact arrangement of the more than 10,000 atoms that make up the protein complex. Their research increased the general understanding of the mechanisms of photosynthesis and revealed similarities between the photosynthetic processes of plants and bacteria.