After a long battle with cancer, our friend, mentor, preeminent biochemist and consummate humanitarian M. Daniel Lane passed away April 10 at the age of 83.
Dan was not only a major leader in biochemistry but also contributed substantially to the success of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He served on the ASBMB Council (1982 – 1985 and 1986 – 1992), as program chairman (1987 – 1989) and as president (1990 – 1991). Dan also served two terms on the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and he won the 1981 William C. Rose Award for his outstanding enzymology and metabolism research.
Dan, the scientist and teacher
The son of Danish immigrants, Dan was born in 1930 in Chicago. After obtaining his B.S. in 1951 and M.S. in 1953 from Iowa State University, he went on to earn his Ph.D. in 1956 at the University of Illinois. Dan’s unique scientific talents were so apparent that he was soon recruited to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., as an associate professor and was promoted to professor of biochemistry in 1963.
After a sabbatical in Munich, he left Virginia Tech to become an associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine, where he was promoted to professor in 1969.
In 1970, Dan moved to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and served as director of the department of biological chemistry (then called the physiological chemistry department) from 1978 to 1997. In 2001, he was named a University Distinguished Service professor, and he became a professor emeritus in 2008.
Dan’s scientific career was remarkable, with numerous seminal contributions to our understanding of enzymology of lipid-metabolizing enzymes, insulin signaling, adipogenesis, and the regulation of hunger and satiety.
Dan began his career studying carboxylases. It was Dan’s discovery that propionyl-CoA carboxylase is a biotin-dependent enzyme and that the biotin prosthetic group is covalently linked to propionyl-CoA carboxylase. This was a seminal finding that launched our mechanistic understanding of these enzymes.
He then turned his attention to methylmalonyl-CoA:pyruvate transcarboxylase, another biotin-dependent enzyme. He developed an apoenzyme system to investigate the biotin-loading reaction, which stimulated further investigations into these enzymes. It is because of Dan’s work that we now have an understanding of the enzymatic mechanisms of these enzymes.
While Dan made seminal contributions to our understanding of other enzymes, he is perhaps best known for his work on acetyl-CoA carboxylase, the key regulator of fatty-acid biosynthesis. His work defined the enzymology, partial reaction mechanisms, and regulation and structure of this enzyme. The importance of this work is underscored by the fact it is now required reading found in most textbooks of biochemistry. Dan’s classic work in the enzymology of lipid-metabolizing enzymes
has been complemented by his contributions to our mechanistic understanding of insulin signaling and to the transcriptional regulation of lipogenesis and the role of hypothalamic malonyl-CoA in the control of hunger and satiety. This work led to the identification of genes essential for adipogenesis and the elucidation of the regulation of these genes at a molecular level (for a review, see
Mandrup and Lane).
Almost from the beginning of his career, Dan maintained an interest in the regulation of hunger and satiety. In an insightful series of studies, Dan discovered that hypothalamic elevation of malonyl-CoA, a key component in fatty-acid synthesis, suppressed hunger. His work on lipogenesis and satiety formed the bases of other studies currently being pursued by other investigators.
Dan’s enthusiasm for science was infectious. He often was engaged in scientific discussions that inspired new and exciting hypotheses. Dan always asked insightful and stimulating questions in seminars and journal clubs. This ability to inspire his colleagues spilled over into his formal teaching skills, which remain legendary at Hopkins. Physicians who trained at Hopkins from 1970 until 2006 (when Dan formally stopped teaching) remember the “Lane Lectures” he gave in the metabolism section in medical school. It was not surprising, and it was well-deserved, when he was recognized by the Johns Hopkins community with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Professor’s Award for Distinction in Teaching.
Dan, the humanitarian and mentor
Dan was not only a consummate scientist; he was also a compassionate humanitarian and supportive mentor. Dan always nurtured younger investigators, and this nurturing led to the development of many of our current leading investigators. Virtually everyone Dan recruited to the faculty has had a highly successful and internationally recognized career. He constantly supported his faculty for awards, elections to national academies and even Nobel prizes.
Dan truly believed that a key responsibility of a department chair is to create a supportive environment that promotes creativity, love of science and a vigorous interchange of ideas. Under Dan’s direction, the biological chemistry department felt like a family in which we all supported and cared for each other. When faculty members left Dan’s department, it was usually thanks, in part, to Dan’s unselfish promotion of them to assume leadership positions.
|Dan Lane on his boat fishing in the Chesapeake Bay.
Dan was fearless in his defense of science, science education and training, and scientists. This contributed to his ability to provide a productive and supportive intellectual atmosphere for the scientific community. He and his wife, Patricia Sonquist Lane, were true champions of human rights, and their sense of humanity was palpable. Dan was not only aware of violations of human rights and dignities and assaults on the environment, but he also worked hard to alleviate those violations and curb those assaults. Dan fought to maintain voting rights and protect our environment, including efforts to improve the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.
Any discussion of Dan also must include his personal love for his family, boating and fishing. It was always obvious that Dan cherished his family. For 60 years, Dan was married to Pat, who preceded him in death in 2010. Pat also played a key role in creating a familylike environment in the department. Dan’s pride for his family was apparent in his office, which was filled with family pictures.
And it must be said that these pictures were not alone; they were accompanied by photos of his boats and the fish he had caught. Boating and fishing were two of Dan’s true joys. Dan was a premier fisherman — of ground-breaking data and young scientists as well as big fish.
The loss of Dan has left a huge void in our scientific community. His warmth, compassion and scientific acumen will be missed by family and colleagues alike. It is sad to realize that future scientists will not have the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by contributions he would have made if he were still with us. Dan has influenced us all, and for that we can all be thankful.
Dan Lane’s discoveries earned him many honors and awards, including the following:
He was recognized by election to numerous societies, including the following:
- • American Society for Nutrition’s Mead Johnson Award, 1966
- • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (formerly American Society of Biological Chemists) William C. Rose award, 1981
- • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Professor’s Award for Distinction in Teaching, 1986
- • National Institutes of Health MERIT award, 1990
He held numerous leadership positions, including the following:
- • American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1982
- • National Academy of Sciences, 1987
- • American Society for Nutritional Sciences, 1996
- • President, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
- • Member, ASBMB Program Committee, Membership Committee and Public Affairs Committee
- • Editorial board member, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Biochemistry et Biophysica Acta, the Archives Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Annual Reviews of Biochemistry.
- • Executive editor and editorial board member, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Daniel M. Raben (firstname.lastname@example.org
) is a professor in the department of biological chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an ASBMB Lipid Research Division leader.
Gerald W. Hart (email@example.com
) is director of the biological chemistry department at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an associate editor for Molecular & Cellular Proteomics and for The Journal of Biological Chemistry.