Nutritional Biochemistry and the Amino Acid Composition of Proteins: the Early Years of Protein Chemistry. The Work of Thomas B. Osborne and Lafayette B. Mendel


Simoni, R.D.; Hill, R.L.; Vaughan, M.

Journal of Biological Chemistry 277(18): E7-E7

2002


The research described in the two papers in this installment of JBC Classics represents the beginning of nutritional studies as a major focus of biochemistry for many years.

THE
JOURNAL
OF
BIOLOGICAL
CHEMISTRY
Vol.
277,
No.
18,
Issue
of
May
3,
p.
e7,
2002
©
2002
by
The
American
Society
for
Biochemistry
and
Molecular
Biology,
Inc.
Printed
in
U
S.A.
Classics
A
PAPER
IN
A
SERIES
REPRINTED
TO
CELEBRATE
THE
CENTENARY
OF
THE
JBC
IN
2005
JBC
Centennial
1905-2005
100
Years
of
Biochemistry
and
Molecular
Biology
Nutritional
Biochemistry
and
the
Amino
Acid
Composition
of
Proteins:
the
Early
Years
of
Protein
Chemistry.
The
Work
of
Thomas
B.
Osborne
and
Lafayette
B.
Mendel
The
Amino
-Acid
Minimum
for
Maintenance
and
Growth,
as
Exemplified
by
Further
Experiments
with
Lysine
and
Tryptophane
(Osborne,
T.
B.,
and
Mendel,
L.
B.
(1916)
J.
Biol.
Chem.
25,
1-12)
The
Role
of
Vitamines
in
the
Diet
(Osborne,
T.
B.,
and
Mendel,
L.
B.
(1917)
J.
Biol.
Chem.
31,
149-163)
The
research
described
in
the
two
papers
in
this
installment
of
JBC
Classics
represents
the
beginning
of
nutritional
studies
as
a
major
focus
of
biochemistry
for
many
years.
Lafayette
Benedict
Mendel
was
Professor
of
Physiological
Chemistry
at
the
Sheffield
Sci-
entific
School
at
Yale,
his
alma
mater.
From
1921
to
1935,
the
year
he
died,
he
was
the
Sterling
Professor
of
Physiological
Chemistry.
Although
Mendel's
accomplishments
were
many
and
varied,
he
received
major
recognition
for
his
work
in
nutrition.
Mendel
was
one
of
the
first
81
members
of
the
American
Society
of
Biological
Chemists
(ASBC)
and
continued
to
be
very
active
in
the
Society,
serving
as
both
Vice
President
and
President.
He
was
also
a
member
of
the
first
Editorial
Board
of
the
Journal
of
Biological
Chemistry
(JBC)
(1).
In
addition
Mendel
was
regarded
as
a
gifted
teacher.
His
students
referred
to
him
as
"The
Professor."
On
his
60th
birthday,
Graham
Lusk
said
of
him,
"He
has
been
the
guide,
philosopher,
and
friend
to
many
young
men
and
women;
he
has
guided
them
to
walk
by
themselves
when
they
were
able
to
stand
alone;
and
he
has
given
them
wise
council
in
times
of
difficulty.
Herein
he
has
shown
himself
as
one
of
the
great
teachers
of
his
time"
(2).
Thomas
Burr
Osborne
was
a
long
time
collaborator
with
Mendel
at
Yale.
Like
Mendel,
he
received
his
Ph.D.
from
Yale.
He
was
primarily
a
chemist,
and
his
interests
were
in
the
amino
acid
composition
of
proteins,
particularly
plant
proteins.
He
was
Research
Chemist
at
Yale
and
subsequently
Research
Chemist
at
the
Connecticut
Agricultural
Experiment
Station
at
New
Haven,
Research
Associate
at
the
Carnegie
Institution,
and
Research
Associate
in
Biochem-
istry
at
Yale.
Osborne
was
quite
active
in
the
Society
serving
as
both
Vice
President
and
President
and
was,
like
Mendel,
a
member
of
the
first
JBC
Editorial
Board
(1).
Osborne's
work
focused
on
determining
the
exact
composition
of
many
plant
proteins
and
showing
that
the
amino
acid
composition
varied
enormously
among
different
proteins,
even
those
from
the
same
plant
seed.
Zein,
for
example,
had
1.5%
arginine
whereas
edestin
contained
14.4%.
With
this
kind
of
compositional
data,
he
was
able
to
suggest
that,
given
such
varied
composition,
different
proteins
would
have
different
nutritive
value.
Osborne's
work
fit
nicely
with
Mendel's
interests
in
determining
the
relative
values
of
various
isolated
proteins
in
both
the
maintenance
of
adult
animals
and
growth
of
young
animals.
They
had
determined
that
zein,
the
major
protein
of
maize,
lacks
tryptophane
(sic)
and
lysine.
As
described
in
the
first
of
the
two
JBC
Classics
reprinted
here,
they
demonstrated
that
maintenance
of
adult
rats
required
the
addition
of
tryptophane
(sic)
to
the
diet.
Rats
would
not
grow,
however,
unless
lysine
was
also
added.
This
work
led
to
other
nutritional
insights
including
the
description
of
"fat
soluble"
and
"water
soluble"
vitamins,
the
subject
of
the
second
Classic
in
this
set.
The
introduction
to
this
paper
offers
interesting
insight
into
the
controversy
of
the
"vitamine
(sic)
hypothesis."
Osborne
14
Classics
15
Thomas
B.
Osborne.
Photo
courtesy
of
the
National
Library
of
Medicine.
ad
i
=
API*
/MI
Lafayette
B.
Mendel.
Photo
courtesy
of
the
National
Library
of
Medicine.
and
Mendel
write
that
Rohmann,
an
opponent
of
the
vitamin
hypothesis,
said,
"The
assump-
tion
that
some
unknown
substances
are
indispensable
for
growth
is
a
convenient
device
for
explaining
experiments
that
result
in
failure
a
device
that
becomes
superfluous
as
soon
as
the
experiment
succeeds."
One
detects
that
Mendel,
Osborne,
and
no
doubt
their
contemporary
nutritionists
took
some
delight
in
proving
Rohmann
wrong.
This
work
by
Mendel
and
Osborne
serves
as
an
introduction
to
other
nutritional
biochem-
istry
papers
that
follow
in
later
installments
of
JBC
Classics,
particularly
those
by
E.
V.
McCollum
and
E.
A.
Doisy.
Robert
D.
Simoni,
Robert
L.
Hill,
and
Martha
Vaughan
REFERENCES
1.
Chittenden,
R.
(1945)
The
First
Twenty-five
Years
of
the
American
Society
of
Biological
Chemists,
Williams
&
Wilkins,
Baltimore,
MD
2.
Obituary
for
Lafayette
Benedict
Mendel
(1936)
J.
Biol.
Chem.
112,
431-432