ASBMB Past Presidents

1983 – Earl R. Stadtman




Earl Reece Stadtman was born in Carrizozo, a small town in New Mexico. In 1942, he earned a B.S. in soil science from the University of California, Berkeley, and then started graduate work at Berkeley with Horace A. Barker. He and Barker used enzyme extracts from Clostridium kluyveri to study the individual reactions involved in fatty acid synthesis and confirmed that ethanol is oxidized to acetyl phosphate, which condenses with acetate and forms butyric acid. This work on fatty acid synthesis was featured as a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1). Stadtman earned his Ph.D. in 1949 and then joined Fritz Lipmann at Massachusetts General Hospital for postdoctoral work. There, Stadtman showed that acetyl-CoA was the source of active acetate in the synthesis of butyric acid from acetyl phosphate.

In 1950, Stadtman moved to Bethesda, Maryland, to join the National Institutes of Health, where he spent the remainder of his career. At the NIH, he continued his research on fatty acid metabolism and successfully carried out the first in vitro net synthesis of acetyl-CoA. He also demonstrated that long-chain fatty acid synthesis is catalyzed by an enzyme complex in which methylmalonyl-CoA is the source of active acetate. Stadtman also spent a good deal of time working on glutamine synthetase and discovered that the end product inhibition of the enzyme was cumulative and that susceptibility to feedback inhibition occurred only when glutamine synthetase was adenylated by adenylyl transferase. He eventually surmised that glutamine synthetase activity was controlled by a cascade system in which two systems of reversible covalent modification were tightly linked. This cascade system allowed enzyme activity to be gradually shifted in response to metabolite availability.

Stadtman received many awards and honors for his numerous research discoveries including the 1979 National Medal of Science, the 1983 ASBMB-Merck Award, the 1991 Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry, and the 1993 Paul Glen Award in Aging. He was president of the American Society of Biological Chemists in 1983 and became a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1969.

1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2005) Fatty acid synthesis and glutamine synthetase: The work of Earl Stadtman. J. Biol. Chem. 280 (26)