ASBMB Past Presidents

1968 – Bernard L. Horecker

(b. 1914)



Bernard Leonard Horecker attended graduate school at the University of Chicago in the laboratory of T. R. Hogness. There, he searched for an enzyme that would catalyze the reduction of cytochrome c by reduced NADP, marking the beginning of his lifelong involvement with the pentose phosphate pathway. After earning his Ph.D. he joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where he continued his research in enzymology and began studying the reduction of cytochrome c by the succinic dehydrogenase system. This work led to a collaboration with Arthur Kornberg in which the two studied the effects of cyanide on the succinic dehydrogenase system. Two years later, Horecker and Kornberg set up the new section on enzymes in the Laboratory of Physiology at NIH.

Horecker's research interests soon turned to the enzymes involved in the oxidation of 6-phosphogluconate and he was able to work out a new method for the preparation of glucose 6-phosphate and 6-phosphogluconate, both of which were not yet commercially available. He also played a key role in elucidating several steps in the pentose phosphate pathway. His contributions included the discovery of three new sugar phosphate esters, ribulose 5-phosphate, sedoheptulose 7-phosphate, and erythrose 4-phosphate, and three new enzymes, transketolase, transaldolase, and pentose-phosphate 3-epimerase. An account of Horecker's work can be found in his Journal of Biological Chemistry Reflection (1) and in a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (2).

Horecker went on to the New York University School of Medicine, and then the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and finally to Cornell University, where he was dean of the Graduate School of Medical Sciences. His contributions to science have been recognized with many awards and honors including the American Chemical Society's Hillebrand Prize (1953), the Washington Academy of Sciences Award for Scientific Achievement in Biological Sciences (1954), and his election to the National Academy of Sciences (1961). He served as president of the American Society of Biological Chemists in 1968.

1. Horecker, B. L. (2002) The pentose phosphate pathway. J. Biol. Chem. 277, 47965–47971.

2. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2005) Bernard L. Horecker's contributions to elucidating the pentose phosphate pathway. J. Biol. Chem. 280 (29)