Newswise — BETHESDA, Md., July 1, 2015 – The Journal of Biological Chemistry today welcomed F. Peter Guengerich of Vanderbilt University as the journal’s interim editor-in-chief. Guengerich’s appointment was announced as the five-year term of Martha Fedor of The Scripps Research Institute came to a close.
“We’re fortunate to have Fred Guengerich at the helm of the JBC during this time of change,” said Steven McKnight, president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which publishes the JBC and two other journals. “Fred has been a prolific author, an editorial board member, an associate editor and deputy editor of the journal. He understands the JBC’s history and is dedicated to its success in the future. On top of that, he has made tremendous contributions to the field of biochemistry and to the pharmaceutical industry.”
McKnight expressed his appreciation for Fedor’s five years of service to the journal, saying she deserves praise and recognition for her “extraordinary commitment to authors and reviewers.” McKnight said he is assembling a search committee that will evaluate candidates for the editor position in the coming months. “It’s reassuring to know that the journal is in good hands in the meantime,” McKnight said.
Guengerich became an associate editor for the JBC in 2006, but his relationship with the journal goes back to 1975, when he published the first of, at last count, 116 articles in the JBC. (He has published more than 800 papers throughout his career.)
“I’ve been glad to be involved with the JBC for many years. When I was a student and postdoc, I never imagined being in the position of heading the JBC, even for a short time,” Guengerich said. “I am counting on the help of our associate editors, editorial board, staff and authors in this period of transition. The JBC continues to be a journal run by scientists for scientists.”
After earning his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt in 1973, Guengerich completed a postdoctoral stint at the University of Michigan, where he first became interested in the cytochrome P450 family of enzymes, which facilitate the metabolism of drugs, toxins and endogenous molecules such as steroids. In those early days, the abundance and diversity of cytochrome P450s were not yet appreciated.
By the time Guengerich started his own lab as an assistant professor at Vanderbilt in 1975, at the age of 26, evidence was emerging that an animal could have multiple types of cytochrome P450, and he decided to study those found in rats. Within a decade, his group had purified nine cytochrome P450s from rat, and that was just the start.
In the mid-1980s, about 40 percent of drugs on the market failed because, although they had been tested in animals, they had very different effects, often deleterious, in humans. Guengerich’s team decided to get to the bottom of this problem by investigating cytochrome P450s in humans. With only autopsied livers available to them at the time, the researchers didn’t have much luck – that is, until Guengerich forged a collaboration with the Nashville Regional Organ Procurement Agency, which gave his lab donated livers that couldn’t be transplanted.
With fresher livers in hand, the Guengerich lab then took on the grueling task of purifying human cytochrome P450s , which back then required laborious techniques. Nonetheless, the Guengerich lab churned out important discoveries at a breakneck pace. He was named a full professor at age 34.
Five cytochrome P450s catalyze 90 percent of the oxidations that metabolize drugs. Guengerich’s group identified four of them. Those four were described in three JBC papers that are now designated as “Classics.”
In the decades since, researchers have identified dozens of cytochrome P450s, and Guengerich’s group has remained at the forefront of the field. Pharmaceutical companies frequently call upon Guengerich as a consultant.
Meanwhile, his lab also has continued to publish in the JBC. One of the group’s most recent JBC papers appeared in May. It reported the purification — and the crystal structure and kinetic analysis — of yet another human cytochrome P450.
“Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is one of the most common heritable metabolic diseases in humans, and more than 95 percent of cases are attributed to mutations in P450 21A2,” the authors wrote in the paper. “Much of the literature involving P450 21A2 biochemistry used enzymes from other species, and this appears to be the first reported purification of human P450 21A2.”
Click here for a print-quality photo of Guengerich.
About the Journal of Biological ChemistryThe Journal of Biological Chemistry is the most-cited biomedical research journal in the world. It publishes papers based on original research that are judged to make a novel and important contribution to understanding the molecular and cellular basis of biological processes. The journal is published by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with more than 12,000 members worldwide. Most members teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Others conduct research in various government laboratories, at nonprofit research institutions and in industry. The Society’s student members attend undergraduate or graduate institutions. For more information about ASBMB, visit www.asbmb.org.