Viktor Mutt is probably the scientist who has single-handedly contributed the most to the development of gut endocrinology.
Viktor Mutt was born on December 29, 1923, in Tartu, the old Estonian university town. He spent ten years in New York between the world wars, where his father was consul-general for the Democratic Republic Estonia.
In 1943, after his return to Estonia, Viktor entered medical school. To avoid forced military service in the Soviet army, he fled, under dramatic circumstances, to Finland, worked illegally on a Finnish farm for nearly a year, and, eventually, at the end of World War II, he came to Stockholm where he obtained a job as technical assistant at the laboratory of Erik Jorpes, professor of medical biochemistry at the Karolinska Instituttet.
For the rest of his life, Viktor Mutt stayed at this laboratory. After passing the Swedish highschool exam, he joined the medical school at Karolinska, became bachelor of medicine, and in 1959 he defended his thesis on the purification of secretin. In 1960 he became docent, in 1962 research fellow, and in 1970 associate professor and head of the laboratory. Eventually, in 1979, he obtained a full professorship in biochemistry in Stockholm. After his retirement in 1989, Viktor continued his research until the very day of his death on September 9, 1998.
Viktor devoted his life to purification and identification of hormonal peptides from the gut, initially together with Jorpes, later with a number of younger scientists from Sweden (Birgitta Werner (his wife), Staffan Magnusson, Hans Jörnvall, Åke Rökaeus) and from the rest of the world (Joel Adelson, John Brown, Sami Said, Wolfgang Schmidt, Kezhio Tatemoto, Monique Vagne and others).
The peptide hormones and neuropeptides identified in Viktor’s laboratory illustrate the significance of his work:
- secretins (of different lengths: 27, 28, 29 and 71 amino acids)
- cholecystokinins (-33, -39 and -58)
- vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP)
- peptide histidine-isoleucin and methionine (PHI and PHM)
- gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP)
- motilin; peptide tyrosine-tyrosine (PYY)
- neuropeptide tyrosine (NPY)
- galanin and several others.
A break-through was the method developed by Mutt and Tatemoto for identification of carboxyamidated peptides in tissue extracts. Carboxyamidation is a general characteristic of half the bioactive, regulatory peptides.
Viktor Mutt’s research has not only put gut endocrinology and the neuropeptide part of neurobiology on firm scientific footing. With his generous supply of bioactive peptides to laboratories all over the world, his work became a decisive prerequisite for a multitude of studies in gastroenterology, endocrinology and neurobiology, as well as for several diagnostic tests of, for instance, exocrine pancreatic function and gastrinomas.
In his later years Viktor received several major European awards, and in the USA he received the William Beaumont and Morton Grossman lecture awards. For several years, Viktor Mutt was also nominated for the Nobel Prize. In 1992, in view of Viktor Mutt’s unique contributions to science, the steering committee of the International Symposia on Regulatory Peptides in 1992 established a biannual lectureship to commemorate Viktor Mutt’s name in future research of regulatory peptides.