Through his contributions to the neurochemistry of synaptic transmitters, Leslie Iversen placed the study of uptake processes for noradrenaline on a quantitative basis and discovered a second non-neuronal uptake which leads to a rapid metabolic degradation of the accumulated amines. He exploited uptake processes in the study of the turnover of catecholamines and other synaptic transmitters and as a basis of an electron microscopic radioautographic method for delineating the transmitter specificity of terminal boutons. By this means, it was shown that gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) was taken up by a clearly defined subpopulation of nerve terminals distributed throughout the central nervous system. A selective loss of GABA-containing cells has been found in the basal ganglia of patients with Huntingdon’s chorea. Leslie (with Ed Kravitz, Masanori Otsuka and Zach Hall) was the first to demonstrate that GABA was released from inhibitory nerve terminals. He demonstrated trans-synaptic regulation of enzymes concerned with transmitter biosynthesis and has carried out extensive studies of the effect of nerve growth factor on the biochemistry of sympathetic neurons.
Professor Leslie Iversen CBE FRS died on 30 July 2020.
Chair, Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, Home Office Visiting Professor of Pharmacology, Department Of Pharmacology, University of Oxford
Interest and expertise
Anatomy, physiology and neurosciences
Health and human sciences
neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, addiction, drug misuse
Ferrier Medal and Lecture
On 'Amino acids and peptides: fast and slow chemical signals in the nervous system?'.