Eva J. Neer

Harvard University

October 28, 1937 - February 20, 2000

Scientific Discipline: Medical Physiology and Metabolism
Membership Type:
Member (elected 1998)

Eva J. Neer’s studies on transmembrane signaling systems and G proteins, an important class of signaling molecules, revolutionized the fields of signal transduction and protein function.  Her laboratory was the first to describe the physical properties of adenylyl cyclase enzymes, to develop a chemical separation of the adenylyl cyclase unit from a G protein, to demonstrate that the rate-limiting step in the activation of the catalytic unit was equal to the rate of activation of the G protein, and to show that calmodulin activated the catalytic unit.  She discovered a G protein subunit, called Go, that regulated important ion channels.  The discovery of Go, one of the most abundant signaling proteins in the human brain, proved the existence of a complex family of G proteins.  Neer’s most significant contribution was identifying the coupling of muscarinic receptors on the heart to the IKACh ion channel.  She found that the G protein subunit Gbg controlled the cardiac ion channel.  This was a very controversial discovery for the signal transduction field because it was previously determined and accepted that Ga was the regulator of the IKACh ion channel.  However, Neer stood her ground for her work and it became the accepted experimental data.

Neer received her B.A. degree in 1959 from Barnard College and her M.D. degree in 1963 from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.  She became a research associate in biology at Harvard University in 1970, an assistant professor of biochemistry in 1976, an associate professor of biochemistry in 1979, and the Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry in 1990 (she was the second woman to ever hold the title).  From 1982 to 1992, Neer worked as a biochemist for Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Department of Medicine.  She was a member of the American Society for Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, the Endocrine Society, and the Society for Neuroscience.  Neer received the Basic Research Prize from the American Heart Association in 1996 and the Excellence in Science Award from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in 1998.

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