John Ernest Walker

John Ernest Walker

British chemist who was corecipient, with Paul D. Boyer, of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1997 for their explanation of the enzymatic process that creates adenosine triphosphate (ATP). (Danish chemist Jens C. Skou also shared the award for separate research on the molecule.)
After receiving his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1969, Walker undertook research projects at universities in the United States and Paris. His award-winning work was conducted at the University of Cambridge in the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, which he joined in 1974, becoming senior scientist in 1982.

In the early 1980s Walker began studying ATP synthase--the central energy-producing molecule in most life forms--which aides in the synthesis of ATP, the carrier of chemical energy. Focusing on the chemical and structural composition of the enzyme, he determined the sequence of amino acids that make up the synthase's protein units. In the 1990s, working with X-ray crystallographers, Walker clarified the three-dimensional structure of the enzyme. His work supported Boyer's "binding change mechanism," which explained the unusual way in which the enzyme functions. Walker's findings offer insight into the way life forms produce energy.

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