It's in the Blood! A Documentary History of Linus Pauling, Hemoglobin and Sickle Cell Anemia Narrative  
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Denaturation of Proteins
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Pauling's work on magnetic properties of hemoglobin piqued his interest in other proteins; however, he already was intrigued by them. While visiting the Rockefeller Institute in spring of 1935, Pauling convinced Simon Flexner, the institute's president and a member of the Rockefeller Foundation's board of trustees, to send Alfred E. Mirsky to Caltech for one year. Pauling and Mirsky analyzed the structure of native, denatured and coagulated proteins during the same time that Pauling and Coryell researched the magnetic properties and structure of hemoglobin and its derivatives.

Mirsky already knew a good deal about the denaturation of proteins and had worked on the denaturation of hemoglobin, thus Pauling hoped that Mirsky would help him improve his own understanding of proteins. Together they investigated what happens structurally when a native protein (in the natural state) is denatured (altered). They found that the tertiary structure of native proteins (i.e. the structure produced when a sequence of amino acids folds and binds to itself) depends upon hydrogen bonds, which allow the folded protein to hold its shape. During denaturation the hydrogen bonds break down and the protein loses its tertiary structure. Hemoglobin was one of the substances they analyzed.

Pauling's knowledge about hemoglobin and its derivatives would greatly aid his ability to understand the sickling process undergone by sickle cell hemoglobin. However, this was not for another seven years, in which time he learned more about chemical reactions within the human body, especially about immunology.

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Video Clip  Video: Working on Proteins with Alfred Mirsky. May 20, 1986. (1:22) Transcript and More Information

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See Also: Letter from Linus Pauling to Alfred E. Mirsky. August 11, 1937. 
See Also: "Report on Research in Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology Done with the Support of the Rockefeller Foundation, 1939-1940." April 6, 1940. 
See Also: Letter from Linus Pauling to Milislav Demerec. April 25, 1944. 

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Picture
Portrait of Alfred E. Mirsky, 1960s.


Page 1
"The Structure of Proteins." 1936.

"I went to New York and gave a seminar at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, in 1936. And at that time, I asked the director, Simon Flexner, to send Alfred Mirsky and his family to Pasadena to be with us for a year, because of my interest in hemoglobin. So Mirsky came. Mirsky was astonished that I would have the temerity to approach Flexner -- I was a brash young man, I think -- and then astonished that it worked out!"

Linus Pauling
May 10, 1984
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