Danish biophysicist who (with Paul D. Boyer and John E. Walker) was
awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1997 for his discovery of the
enzyme called sodium-potassium-activated adenosine triphosphatase (Na+-K+
ATPase), which is found in the plasma membrane of animal cells and acts
as a pump that exchanges sodium (Na+) for potassium (K+).
In the late 1950s Skou proposed that an enzyme is responsible for the
transport of molecules through a cell's membrane. His work with the
membranes of nerve cells from crabs led to the discovery of Na+-K+ ATPase.
Bound to a cell membrane, Na+-K+ ATPase is activated by external potassium
and internal sodium. The enzyme pumps sodium out of the cell and potassium
into it, thereby maintaining a high intracellular concentration of potassium
and a low concentration of sodium relative to the surrounding external
environment. Skou's work led to the discovery of similar ATPase-based
enzymes, including the ion pump that controls muscle contraction.
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