October 7, 2013 § Leave a comment
It’s been a very exciting day to have three ASBMB members to win the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work in vesicle trafficking. James Rothman of Yale University, Randy Schekman at the University of California, Berkeley, and Thomas Sudhof at Stanford University share the prize “for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells,” said the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet in its announcement this morning.
Vesicle trafficking “is the mode by which proteins move from place to place within the cell. This includes the process of internalization, in which receptors at the cell surface move inside the cell, as well as the reverse process, in which proteins, such as hormones, are secreted from cells,” explains Steven Caplan at the University of Nebraska who studies the process. “Such movement is essential for the normal functioning of every cell, and impaired vesicle trafficking leads to a host of diseases. More than anything, this Nobel Prize is a boon to those of us in the field and acknowledges the importance of understanding fundamental biological questions.”
Schekman used yeast genetics to identify more than 20 genes that are critical for vesicle trafficking. He showed that these genes could be classified into three categories of vesicle-transport regulation based on location: in the Golgi complex, in the endoplasmic reticulum and at the cell surface.
Rothman used biochemical approaches to establish the function of SNARE proteins. He demonstrated how different combinations of these proteins formed complexes to control cell fusion and properly delivered the cargo inside the vesicles to the right destination.
Südhof (who recently won the Lasker Award in Basic Medical Research along with Genentech’s Richard H. Scheller) became interested in how vesicle fusion machinery was controlled. He worked out the mechanism by which calcium ions trigger release of neurotransmitters and identified key regulatory components in the vesicle fusion machinery, such as complexin and synaptotagmin-1.
“Together, Rothman, Schekman and Südhof have transformed the way we view transport of molecular cargo to specific destinations inside and outside the cell,” said the Nobel Prize press release.
Defects in vesicle trafficking have been linked to conditions such as neurological diseases, diabetes and immunological disorders.
We dug through our archives to find photos of today’s winners and found some gems. Enjoy!