Michael I. Verkhovsky
14.06.1953 - 04.10.2011
Michael I. Verkhovsky recently passed away broken by a malignant
disease. Misha was born in Ukraine, former USSR, in 1953. He
received his Master’s degree in biophysics at the Lomonosov
Moscow State University in 1975, and his PhD in 1981 at the same
university on work concerning the primary reaction mechanisms of
bacterial photosynthesis in bacterial reaction centres, under the
direction of Prof. Andrei B. Rubin. From 1989 onwards, he worked
as a research scientist on bacterial bioenergetics at the Belozersky
Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Bioorganic Chemistry at
Moscow State university, headed by Prof. Vladimir P. Skulachev. In
1991, I invited him to the Helsinki Bioenergetics group to join our work on the molecular
mechanisms of proton translocation by respiratory enzyme complexes, cytochrome c oxidase in
particular. Misha and his wife Marina both joined the lab, and moved to Finland with their two
children, which was to be the beginning of a very fruitful collaboration and warm friendship.
Very early on Misha expertly attacked the fast electron and proton transfer reactions of respiratory
enzyme with his outstanding knowledge and feel for kinetics, and his great talent for developing
opto-electronic instruments [1,2].
This included a paper published in Nature on the high affinity of
the respiratory enzyme for oxygen, on which one of the reviewers' comments was - "textbook stuff"
. Simultaneously with this work, he developed the electrometric technique that had originated in
Moscow, to become applicable for measurements of translocation of electrical charge across
biological membranes with submicrosecond time resolution . This technique has subsequently
been a key instrument in helping us understand the molecular mechanisms that underly charge
separation - and thus energy transduction - in cellular respiration [5,
6]. Misha's great talent for
spectroscopy and kinetics also led to his discovery of the ultrafast nanosecond quantum-mechanical
electron tunneling between the heme groups in the respiratory heme-copper oxidases , and to
the unprecedented measurements of electron transfer in real time along the 100 Å array of iron-
sulfur centres in respiratory Complex I .
Misha was appointed acting professor at university of Helsinki for the period 1996-2006, first at the
Department of Medical Chemistry and later at the Institute of Biotechnology, and from 2005 he has
been Group Leader at the Institute. He supervised several doctoral theses in Helsinki, and hosted a
large number of foreign scientists, who benefitted from his outstanding experimentation and
Misha is grieved by his wife, Dr. Marina Verkhovskaya, and his two children Anatoly and Valeria. His
untimely death at the peak of his very active scientific career is a great loss to the international
science community, and especially to the Institute of Biotechnology and University of Helsinki.
1. Verkhovsky, M.I., Morgan J.E. and Wikström, M. (1992) "Intramolecular electron transfer in
cytochrome c oxidase; a cascade of equilibria", Biochemistry 31, 11860-11863.
2. Verkhovsky, M.I., Morgan, J.E. and Wikström, M. (1995) "Control of Electron Delivery to the
Oxygen Reduction Site of Cytochrome c Oxidase: A Role for Protons", Biochemistry 34, 7483-7491.
3. Verkhovsky, M.I., Morgan, J.E., Puustinen, A., and Wikström, M. (1996) "Kinetic trapping of O2 in
cell respiration", Nature 380, 268-270.
4. Verkhovsky, M.I., Morgan, J.E., Verkhovskaya, M.L. and Wikström, M. (1997) "Translocation of
electrical charge during a single turnover of cytochrome c oxidase", Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1318, 6-
5. Verkhovsky, M.I., Jasaitis, A., Verkhovskaya, M.L., Morgan, J.E. and Wikström, M. (1999) "Proton
translocation by cytochrome c oxidase", Nature 400, 480-483.
6. Belevich, I., Verkhovsky, M.I. & Wikström, M. (2006),"Proton-coupled electron transfer drives the
proton pump of cytochrome c oxidase", Nature 440, 829-832.
7. Jasaitis, A., Johansson, M.P., Wikström, M., Vos, M.H. & Verkhovsky, M.I. (2007) "Nanosecond
electron tunneling between the hemes in cytochrome bo3", Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 104, 20811-
8. Verkhovskaya, M.L., Belevich, N., Euro, L., Wikström, M. & Verkhovsky, M.I. (2008) "Real time
electron transfer in Complex I", Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105, 3763-3767.