Jens Christian Skou

Jens Christian Skou, a pioneer of biomembrane research and molecular physiology, died on 28 May, just a few months shy of his 100th birthday. The Danish physiologist discovered the enzyme known as the sodium-potassium adenosine triphosphatase (Na+,K+-ATPase), or sodium-potassium pump, which exports sodium ions from and imports potassium ions into cells. Almost all modern biochemistry, cell biology, and physiology textbooks showcase the sodium-potassium pump, which accounts for about 20 to 30% of the energy used by cells through hydrolysis of ATP in human and animal bodies and up to 70 to 80% in the brain. In recognition of this first discovery of an ion-transporting ATPase, Skou shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with chemists Paul D. Boyer and John E. Walker for their work on the mechanism of ATP synthesis.