Walter F. Boron

72nd APS President (1999-2000)
Walter F. Boron
(b. 1949)

Walter Boron is Professor of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, CT, where he has served since his appointment in 1980. He was born in 1949 in Elyria, OH, where he received his education through high school. He attended Saint Louis University, where he earned an AB summa cum laude in chemistry in 1971. Boron then entered the Medical Scientist Training Program at Washington University in St. Louis, where he did his graduate work under the tutelage of Albert Roos in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. He received his MD and PhD degrees in 1977. After remaining with Roos for one year as a postdoctoral fellow, Boron moved to Yale in 1978 to work as a postdoctoral fellow with Emile Boulpaep in the Department of Physiology. In 1980, Boron joined the faculty of that department. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1984 and Professor in 1987. Between 1989 and 1998, he served three 3-year terms as Chairman of the Department.

As a graduate student, using microelectrodes to measure intracellular pH (pHi) in squid axons and barnacle muscle fibers, Boron was one of the first to monitor transient changes in pHi. With Paul De Weer, Boron observed and elucidated the pHi changes caused by applying and withdrawing NH3/NH+4 and CO2/HCO-3. They thereby introduced the NH+4 prepulse technique that is still widely used to acid load cells and also produced the first direct evidence of active pHi regulation. Their work, and the work that Boron did with John Russell, was pivotal in the initial description of the Na+-driven Cl-HCO3 exchanger. As a postdoctoral fellow, Boron, together with Boulpaep, discovered the electrogenic Na/HCO3 cotransporter, which plays a central role in HCO-3 reabsorption in the renal proximal tubule. Boron's group at Yale has continued to elucidate mechanisms of pHi regulation and acid-base transport. They were among the pioneers in using pH-sensitive dyes for monitoring pHi and also developed a rapid-mixing technique for making out-of-equilibrium CO2/HCO-3 solutions with virtually any combination of [CO2], [HCO-3], and pH. They developed techniques for determining how growth factors affect the pHi dependence of acid-base transporters. By doing experiments in the presence of HCO-3, they disproved the theory that growth factors act by raising pHi. The Boron group also discovered the K/HCO3 cotransporter and cloned the electrogenic Na/HCO3 cotransporter and, more recently, the electroneutral Na/HCO3 cotransporter. Their work on isolated-perfused gastric glands and colonic crypts led to the discovery of gas-impermeable membranes. Most recently, Boron's group has shown that water channels, such as AQP1, have a high permeability for CO2 gas.

Boron has been an active member of APS since 1981, serving as Councillor for the Society for three years. He has been a member of the Long-Range Planning Committee. He served as program representative and later as Chair of the Renal Section. He served for six years as Associate Editor of Physiological Reviews and is currently in his sixth year as Editor of that journal. He was treasurer of the Society of General Physiologists and has served on the editorial boards of the American Journal of Physiology: Renal, Fluid and Electrolyte Physiology, and The Journal of Physiology.

Boron was a Searle Scholar from 1981-1984. He won the Young Investigator Award of the American Society of Nephrology and the American Heart Association in 1986. For excellence in teaching at Yale, Boron received the Charles W. Bohmfalk Teaching Award in 1993. That same year, he received the Robert F. Pitts Lectureship Award from the Renal Commission of the International Union of Physiological Sciences. In 1998, he received the C. W. Gottschalk Distinguished Lectureship Award from the Renal Section of the American Physiological Society. He was also elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1998. Boron's research is funded by the National Institutes of Health. He and Emile Boulpaep are completing the editing of a new textbook of physiology for first-year medical students.