Huxley, Andrew Fielding

Abstract

Andrew Huxley (1917–2012) graduated in Natural Sciences at Cambridge (1935–1939), beginning research on nerve excitation with Alan Hodgkin in 1939. During World War II he worked on operational anti‐aircraft and naval gunnery. He returned to Cambridge in 1945, moved to University College London in 1960 and returned to Cambridge as Master of Trinity College (1984–1990). Huxley made major contributions on nerve conduction and muscle activation. He analysed nerve action potentials invoking underlying transmembrane ion movements, and their saltatory propagation in myelinated nerves. His muscle work demonstrated the action of the transverse tubules conveying surface excitation to the interior thereby initiating contraction. He established the sliding filament theory for actin–myosin interaction involving actions of cross‐bridges formed between them. Huxley was awarded the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Hodgkin and John Eccles, elected to the Royal Society in 1955, knighted in 1974 and created Order of Merit in 1983.

Keywords: physiology; nerve; action potential; saltatory conduction; voltage‐sensing; muscle contraction; sliding filament theory; cross bridge

Figure 1.

Sir Andrew Huxley in his laboratory (Reproduced by permission from Huxley, . © John Wiley & Sons Ltd).

Figure 2.

Time courses of propagated action potential and underlying ionic conductance changes computed from voltage‐clamp data. The constants assumed a 18.5 °C temperature. Conduction velocity was 18.8 m s−1(Reproduced by permission from Hodgkin and Huxley, . © John Wiley & Sons Ltd).

Figure 3.

Local stimulation experiments in amphibian skeletal muscle. Panels 1–4: edge of isolated frog muscle fibre and apposed pipette photographed under polarised light. A bands containing myosin appear dark. Results of stimulation at an A (panels 1 and 2) and an I band (panels 3 and 4) before (panels 1 and 3) and during (panels 2 and 4) stimulation. This demonstrates contraction only if the pipette apposed an I band (panel 4). Panels 5–8: successive cine frames; 16 frames s−1; panels 5–8: these show the shortening where the local stimulation is applied between panels 5 and 6 (Reproduced by permission from Huxley and Taylor, . © John Wiley & Sons Ltd).

Figure 4.

The length tension relationship of skeletal muscle compared to a cross bridge hypothesis. (a) The isometric tension of isolated frog muscle fibre at different sarcomere lengths. The numbers 1 to 6 refer to the myofilament positions shown in (c). (b) Electronmicroscopic measurements of myofilament dimensions in frog muscle. (c) Myofilament arrangements at different lengths. Letters a, b, c and z refer to dimensions given in panel (a) (Reproduced by permission from Gordon et al., . © John Wiley & Sons Ltd).

Figure 5.

Huxley‐Simmons () model for cross bridge interaction. This incorporates elastic and stepwise‐shortening elements and three possible myosin head positions 1, 2 and 3 with successively stronger binding to actin. The myosin head can dissociate in position 1 without, but in position 3 only with, ATP utilisation (Reproduced by permission from Huxley, . © John Wiley & Sons Ltd).

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Further Reading

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Huxley AF (1971) The activation of striated muscle and its mechanical response. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B178: 1–27.

Huxley AF (1977) Looking back on muscle. The Pursuit of Nature: Informal Essays on the History of Physiology, pp. 23–64. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Huxley A (1982) The Florey Lecture, 1982. Discovery: accident or design? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 216: 253–266.

Huxley AF (2002) Hodgkin and the action potential 1935–1952. Journal of Physiology 538: 2.

Keynes, RD, Aidley DJ and Huang CLH (2011) Nerve and Muscle 4/e. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9780521519557.

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Weismann S (1990) Sir Andrew Fielding Huxley. In: Fox DM, Meldrum M and Rezak I (eds) Nobel Laureates in Medicine or Physiology: A Biographical Dictionary, pp. 284–288. New York, NY: Garland.

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Huang, Christopher L‐H(Oct 2014) Huxley, Andrew Fielding. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002438.pub2]