Macheboeuf, Michel

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Macheboeuf, Michel

(b. Châtel-Guyon, France, 19 October 1900; d. Paris, France, 20 August 1953)


Born to a sturdy Auvergnese family and son of Elie Macheboeuf, a didtinguished physician, Macheboeuf studied medicine at Clermont-Ferrand and at Paris. He soon entered the Paseur Institute, working in Gabriel Bertrand’ laboratory (he succeeded Bertrand as head of the department of biochemistry in 1942). His teaching abilities were recognized by professorships at the University of Brodeaux and at the Sorbonne. His early scientific work, as Rockefeller fellow, was done under S.P.L. Sørensen in Copenhagen. They jointly investigated the structure of egg albumin and, in 1928, demonstrated that it is a mixture of phosphoproteins to which phosphorus is strongly bound. Shortly afterward Macheboeuf made his fundamental discovery of the linkage between the lipides and the proteins of blood plasma: the protido-lipidic “cenapse.” Blood plasma contains large amounts of lipides, which, when isolated, are insoluble in water. In the blood plasma they form soluble cenapses or lipide-protein complexes. Lipide and protein molecules are then strongly bound by their homologous carbon chains—that is, by their water-repellent groups. These groups are somewhat mutually neutralized, and thus the lipide protein cenapse becomes water-soluble. This concept is now universally accepted. It had immediate important clinical application: the lipide-albumin index, the amount of lipides that remain in aqueous solution with 100 grams of albumin. In normal blood this index is about 12, but it reaches 60 or more in cases of lipoidic nephrosis. Macheboeuf also showed that alteration of the normal amount of cenapses modifies the exchange of water and electrolytes between blood and tissues and thus is one of the major causes of edema.

Macheboeuf made a major contribution to the immunochemistry of the tubercle bacillus. He found in this bacillus different groups of important substances: a precipitatory factor which he identified as a specific phosphatidic acid, strong antigens, and toxic substances which cancel out the effect of the strong antigens because they inhibit the activity of the antibody-producing cells. Thus the essential difficulties of antituberculosis vaccine manufacture were precisely defined.

Macheboeuf was among the first to investigate the effect of ultrahigh pressures. He found that bacteria and viruses are permanently inactivated above 6,000 atmospheres, and enzymes resist up to 12,000, while bacterial spores are killed only above 22,000 atmospheres.

Macheboeuf headed an active laboratory that produced fruitful results in many areas: plasma lipoproteins, mitochondrial enzymes, and the effect of antibiotics upon bacterial metabolic enzymes. Thus Macheboeuf was a source of inspiration to biochemists, French and foreign alike, until his untimely death (of lung ailment). He married Simone Bezou; they had three daughters.


I. Original Works. Macheboeuf’s most important works include “Études sur les effets biologiques des ultra-pressions. Résistance des bactéries, des diastases et des toxines aux pressions tiès élevées,” in Compies rendu hebdomadaires des seances de l’Académie des sciences, 195 (1932), 1431, written with J. Basset; “Études chimiques sur le bacille tuberculeux. 1. Essais préliminaires d’extraction et de fractionnement des substances lipoïdiques de corps bacillaircs tués par la chaleur,” in Bulletin de la Société de chimie biologique, 16 (1934), 355, and in Annates de l’lnstitut Pasteur,52 (1934),277, written with G. Levy, N. Fethke, J. Dieryek, and A. Bonnefoi; “Études sur les effets biologiques des ultra-pressions. Modification de la spéculaté antigénique des sérums sous l’influence des pressions tres élevées,” in Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académic des sciences,200 (1935), 496, written with J. Basset and J. Perez; “Sur l’etal des lipides et du cholestérol dans le sérum sanguin. Destruction de cértasnes cénapses lipidoprotétdiques et libération de leurs substances lipoïdiques par um savon,” ibid., 206 (1938), 860, written with F. Tayeau; L’état des Lipides dans la matiere vimnie des cenapses et leur importance biologique, 7 vols., Hermann and co-editors (1937).

Subsequent works include “Nouvelles recherches sur la nature et la stabilité des liaisons unissant les lipides aux protéides dans le sérum sanguin,” in Bulletin de la Société de chimie biologique, 23 (1941), 31, written with R Tayeau; “Recherches sur les phosphoaminolipides du sérum sanguin. Nature des phospholipides liés aux albumines du sérum de Cheval à l’état de cenapses acido-précipitables,“ibid., 25 (1943), 358, written with J.-L. Delsal; “Action des savons à cation actif sur les protéines. I. Précipitation de la sérum-albumine par un cation gras. 11. Précipitation des protéines du sérum par un cation gras,” in Annates de l’institut Pasteur, 74 (1948), 196, written with J. Polonovski; “Recherches biochimiques sur le mode d’action de la strcptomycine dans le métabolisme d’une bactérte: Clostridium sporogenes” ibid., 75 (1948), 242, written with F. Gros and S. Jaulen; “Action des antibiotiques sur le metabolisme prolidique d’une bactérie; Clostridium sporogenes. I. Recherche sur le catabolisme des proteines et des peptides,” ibid., 75 (1948), 320, written with F. Gros and P. Lacaille; “II. Recherches sur le métabolisme des amino-actdes,“ibid,, 446, written with U. Rambeeh and F. Gros; “Études des cénapses lipoprotétques par relargage et électrophorèse,” in Bulletin de la Société de chimie biologique, 33 (1951), 998, written with P. Rebeyrotte; and “Some Aspects of the Influence of Hydrostatic Pressure on Reactions Catalysed by Enzymes,” in Journal of Colloid Science, supp. 1 (1954), written with G.-P. Talwar and J. Basset.

II. Secondary Literature. See the notice by J. Polonovski, in Bulletin de la Société de chimie biologique, 35 (1953), 1279–1286.

A. M. Monnier