Johann Deisenhofer

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Johann Deisenhofer
Born (1943-09-30) September 30, 1943 (age 78)[1]
Zusamaltheim, Bavaria, Germany[1]
Residence Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Nationality Germany and USA
Fields Biophysics, Biochemistry
Institutions University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center[1]
Alma mater
Doctoral advisor Robert Huber[1]
Known for
Notable awards Max Delbruck Prize (1986)
Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1988)

Johann Deisenhofer (born September 30, 1943) is a German biochemist who, along with Hartmut Michel and Robert Huber, received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1988 for their determination of the first crystal structure of an integral membrane protein, a membrane-bound complex of proteins and co-factors that is essential to photosynthesis.[1][2][3][4]

Early life and education

Schematic of photosynthetic reaction center structure in membrane.

Deisenhofer earned his doctorate from the Technical University of Munich for research work done at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, West Germany, in 1974. He conducted research there until 1988, when he joined the scientific staff of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the faculty of the Department of Biochemistry at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.


Together with Michel and Huber, Deisenhofer determined the three-dimensional structure of a protein complex found in certain photosynthetic bacteria. This membrane protein complex, called a photosynthetic reaction center, was known to play a crucial role in initiating a simple type of photosynthesis. Between 1982 and 1985, the three scientists used X-ray crystallography to determine the exact arrangement of the more than 10,000 atoms that make up the protein complex. Their research increased the general understanding of the mechanisms of photosynthesis and revealed similarities between the photosynthetic processes of plants and bacteria.[5]

Deisenhofer currently serves on the board of advisors of Scientists and Engineers for America, an organization focused on promoting sound science in American government. In 2003 he was one of 22 Nobel Laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto.[6] He is currently a Professor at the Department of Biophysics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Frängsmyr, Tore; Malmström, Bo G., eds. (1992). Nobel Lectures, Chemistry 1981-1990,. World Scientific Publishing Co. Retrieved June 24, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Shampo, M. A.; Kyle, R. A. (2000). "Johann Deisenhofer—Nobel Laureate in Chemistry". Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 75 (2): 164. doi:10.4065/75.2.164.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Biography at
  4. Huber, R.; Deisenhofer, J.; Colman, P. M.; Matsushima, M.; Palm, W. (1976). "Crystallographic structure studies of an IgG molecule and an Fc fragment". Nature. 264 (5585): 415–20. doi:10.1038/264415a0. PMID 1004567.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Deisenhofer, J.; Epp, O.; Miki, K.; Huber, R.; Michel, H. (1985). "Structure of the protein subunits in the photosynthetic reaction centre of Rhodopseudomonas viridis at 3Å resolution". Nature. 318 (6047): 618. doi:10.1038/318618a0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Notable Signers". Humanism and Its Aspirations. American Humanist Association. Retrieved October 1, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Johann Deisenhofer, Ph.D. - Faculty Profile - UT Southwestern". Retrieved June 24, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links