The extraordinary partnership of Geoff Burnstock and Mollie Holman

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Here, we recognise some of the extraordinary accomplishments of the partnership between Geoff Burnstock and Mollie Holman, and the everlasting impact they both made in autonomic neuroscience in Australia. Much of strength today in autonomic neuroscience can be traced back to a time when Geoff and Mollie commenced their seminal studies on autonomic neuroscience, initially at Oxford, then at The University of Melbourne in the mid 1960's. Mollie and Geoff published their first paper together, at Oxford, with their then mentor, and doyenne of smooth muscle, Professor Edith Bülbring. They did not always agree on the interpretation of their own scientific findings. Geoff was convinced early on that Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), or a related purine, was an excitatory neurotransmitter at peripheral sympathetic neuroeffector junctions. Mollie was reticent for decades. However, she began to take the notion seriously that ATP maybe a neurotransmitter, when receptors for purines were identified in the 1990's. What the partnership between Mollie and Geoff taught us in Australia was to not fear respectful criticism, but rather to be receptive to and embrace objective, collegial and constructive scientific peer-review. One of the many great legacies of Geoff and Mollie was the large number of researchers, who were fortunate disciples of their supervision, and who have now themselves gone on to make significant discoveries in autonomic and visceral neuroscience. This review summarizes some of their major legacies and represents a very personal historical perspective of the two authors, pupils respectively of Mollie and Geoff.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102831
Number of pages6
JournalAutonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • ATP
  • Colon
  • Enteric nervous system
  • Geoff Burnstock
  • Mollie Holman
  • Peristalsis
  • Peristaltic reflex
  • Sympathetic


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