Nobel Prize Awarded for ‘Vesicle Trafficking’

The American cell biologists James Rothman and Randy Schekman, along with German biochemist Thomas Sudhof, have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for […]

The American cell biologists James Rothman and Randy Schekman, along with German biochemist Thomas Sudhof, have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries on the molecular machinery that transports substances in cells.

Their discovery reveals that cells ferry material in tiny vehicles called vesicles, which fuse with the cell membrane to release its contents. Schekman discovered genes whose protein products regulate this cell transport, while Rothman uncovered the proteins that allow the docking and fusion of the vesicle to the cell membrane. The multitude and specificity of these proteins further ensures that different vesicles release material at differing locations in the cell, depending on where they are needed to be released. The final member of the collaboration, Sudhof, determined that the body controls the timing of these releases by fixed responses of these vesicles to signals, such as calcium ions.

Although the findings of this group has not yet directly led to new drugs or therapies, they have far-reaching implications. The results develop our understanding of how neurones in the brain communicate with each other and how insulin is released from the pancreas. Furthermore, it will no be possible to study how the disruption of the machinery elucidated by the group can lead to neurological conditions such as epilepsy and diabetes. Clinical impacts of the discovery are likely to include diagnostic advances in immunology.

Press release: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2013/press.html

Marco Narajos

About Marco Narajos

Marco is a first year undergraduate at Christ Church, studying Medicine, and is the Online Editor for Bang! Science in Hilary Term 2014.