David Nachmansohn

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David Nachmansohn (17 March 1899 – 2 November 1983) was a German-Jewish biochemist responsible for elucidating the role of phosphocreatine in energy production in the muscles, and the role of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in nerve stimulation. He is also recognised for his basic research into the biochemistry and mechanism underlying bioelectric phenomena.[1]

He was born in Ekaterinoslav, Russia (now Dnipro, Ukraine), moving to Berlin at an early age. In 1926 he went to the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut für Biologie where he worked in the laboratory under Otto Meyerhof. Nachmansohn discovered that rapidly contracting muscles contained more phosphocreatine than slowly contracting ones, which eventually led to the hypothesis that phosphocreatine was involved in the regeneration of the ATP that was built up to provide energy during muscular contraction.

Leaving Nazi-era Berlin, Nachmansohn arrived in Paris in 1933 and took up a position in the Sorbonne. There he discovered that acetylcholinesterase is present at high concentrations in many different types of excitable nerve and muscle fibres and in brain tissue - lending support for Otto Loewi and Henry Dale's then novel proposal that acetylcholine functions in the transmission of impulses from nerves across junctions to other nerves or to muscles.[2]

Nachmansohn obtained very active solutions of acetylcholinesterase from the electric organ of the marbled electric ray (Torpedo marmorata). Nachmansohn moved to Yale University in 1939 and while there published studies confirming the presence of even higher concentration of acetylcholinesterase in the electric organ of electric eels (Electrophorus electricus).[3] This work also demonstrated a strong connection between the release of acetylcholine and the electric discharge.

In 1942 Nachmansohn moved into a laboratory at Columbia University where his group continued to publish on the mechanism underlying electric discharge in fish; using electric eels provided by the aquarium of the New York Zoological Society.[4]

David Nachmansohn was elected member of Leopoldina in 1963 and became a member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) in 1965. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Weizmann Institute in 1972.[5]


  1. ^ Kresge N, Simoni RD, Hill RL (2005). "A theory for the molecular basis of bioelectricity: The work of David Nachmansohn". J. Biol. Chem. 280 (17): e14.
  2. ^ Nachmansohn, David (1939). "Choline esterase in voluntary muscle". J Physiol. 95 (1): 29–35. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.1939.sp003708. PMC 1393968. PMID 16995077.
  3. ^ Nachmansohn D, Coates CW, Cox RT (1941). "Electric potential and activity of choline esterase in the electric organ of Electrophorus electricus (Linnaeus)". J Gen Physiol. 25 (1): 75–88. doi:10.1085/jgp.25.1.75. PMC 2142031. PMID 19873260.
  4. ^ Altamirano M, Coates CW, Grundfest H, Nachmansohn D (1953). "Mechanisms of bioelectric activity in electric tissue. I. The response to indirect and direct stimulation of electroplaques of Electrophorus electricus". J Gen Physiol. 37 (1): 91–110. doi:10.1085/jgp.37.1.91. PMC 2147425. PMID 13084894.
  5. ^ "Honorary Fellows of the Weizmann Institute". Weizmann Institute of Science. Archived from the original on 2013-10-04.

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