Features | Partner Sites | Information | LinkXpress
Sign In
GLOBETECH PUBLISHING
BioConferenceLive
JIB

Nobel Prize Awarded for Fundamental Discoveries in Molecular Mechanisms of Cellular Vesicle Traffic

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 14 Oct 2013
Image: 2013 Physiology or Medicine Nobel laureate Prof. Randy W. Schekman (Photo by H. Goren, courtesy of the Nobel Foundation; HHMI).
Image: 2013 Physiology or Medicine Nobel laureate Prof. Randy W. Schekman (Photo by H. Goren, courtesy of the Nobel Foundation; HHMI).
Image: 2013 Physiology or Medicine Nobel laureate Prof. James E. Rothman (Photo courtesy of the Nobel Foundation; Yale University).
Image: 2013 Physiology or Medicine Nobel laureate Prof. James E. Rothman (Photo courtesy of the Nobel Foundation; Yale University).
Image: 2013 Physiology or Medicine Nobel laureate Prof. Thomas C. Südhof (Photo courtesy of the Nobel Foundation; S. Fisch).
Image: 2013 Physiology or Medicine Nobel laureate Prof. Thomas C. Südhof (Photo courtesy of the Nobel Foundation; S. Fisch).
The 2013 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine jointly awarded to scientists James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman, and Thomas C. Südhof recognizes the fundamental nature of their discoveries about how the cell organizes one of its major transport systems—about the machinery regulating vesicle traffic and the molecular principles that govern how this cellular cargo is precisely delivered to the right place at the right time.

Through their discoveries, they have revealed this exquisitely controlled system, the disturbance of which has deleterious effects and contributes to various medical disorders, including neurological diseases, diabetes, and immunological disorders. Prof. Schekman, currently at the University of California at Berkeley (USA) and an investigator of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (USA), discovered a set of genes required for vesicle traffic. Prof. Rothman, currently at Yale University (New Haven, CT, USA), unraveled protein machinery that allows vesicle membranes to fuse with their target membranes. Prof. Südhof, currently at Stanford University (CA, USA) and an investigator of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, revealed signals that instruct vesicles to release their cargo with precision.

The cell faces the problem of shipping to the right destination at the right time many types of molecules (including hormones, neurotransmitters, cytokines, and enzymes) to be transported and delivered to other locations in the cell or exported out. How do these vesicles know where and when to deliver their cargo?

Traffic congestion: Prof. Schekman was fascinated by how the cell organizes its transport system and in the 1970s decided to study its genetic basis by using yeast as a model system. In a genetic screen, he identified yeast cells with defective transport machinery, giving rise to vesicles piling up in certain parts of the cell. He found that the cause of this congestion was genetic and went on to identify the mutated genes. He identified three classes of genes that control different facets, thereby providing new insights into this tightly regulated machinery.

Docking: Prof. Rothman was also intrigued by the nature of the cell’s transport system. When studying vesicle transport in mammalian cells in the 1980s and 1990s, he discovered that a protein complex enables vesicles to dock and fuse with their target membranes. During fusion proteins on the vesicle and target membranes bind to each other like a zipper. The fact that there are many such proteins and that they bind only in specific combinations ensures that cargo is delivered to a precise location.

It turned out that some of the genes Prof. Schekman had discovered in yeast coded for proteins corresponding to those Prof. Rothman identified in mammals, revealing an ancient evolutionary origin of this transport system, which operates with the same general principles in yeast and humans. Collectively, they mapped critical components of this machinery.

Timing: Prof. Südhof was interested in how nerve cells communicate with one another in the brain. Synaptic vesicles release neurotransmitters upon nerve cell signaling to its neighbors. How is this controlled so precisely? Calcium ions were known to be involved and in the 1990s Prof. Südhof searched for calcium sensitive proteins in nerve cells. He identified molecular machinery that responds to an influx of calcium ions and directs neighbor proteins rapidly to bind synaptic vesicles to the outer membrane of the nerve cell. The zipper opens up and the contents are released. This explained how temporal precision is achieved and how vesicle contents can be released on command.

Together, these discoveries have had a major impact on our understanding of cellular transport mechanisms.

Related Links:

Nobel Foundation



comments powered by Disqus

Channels

Genomics/Proteomics

view channel
Image: In the liver tissue of obese animals with type II diabetes, unhealthy, fat-filled cells are prolific (small white cells, panel A). After chronic treatment through FGF1 injections, the liver cells successfully lose fat and absorb sugar from the bloodstream (small purple cells, panel B) and more closely resemble cells of normal, non-diabetic animals (Photo courtesy of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies).

Fibroblast Growth Factor 1 Treatment Restores Glucose Control in Mouse Diabetes Model

A "vaccine" based on the metabolic regulator fibroblast growth factor 1 (FGF1) removed the insulin resistance that characterizes type II diabetes and restored the body's natural ability to manage its glucose... Read more

Drug Discovery

view channel
Image: Molecular rendering of the crystal structure of parkin (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

Cinnamon Feeding Blocks Development of Parkinson's Disease in Mouse Model

A team of neurological researchers has identified a molecular mechanism by which cinnamon acts to protect neurons from damage caused by Parkinson's disease (PD) in a mouse model of the syndrome.... Read more

Therapeutics

view channel
Image: This type of electronic pacemaker could become obsolete if induction of biological pacemaker cells by gene therapy proves successful (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

Gene Therapy Induces Functional Pacemaker Cells in Pig Heart Failure Model

Cardiovascular disease researchers working with a porcine heart failure model have demonstrated the practicality of using gene therapy to replace implanted electronic pacemakers to regulate heartbeat.... Read more

Lab Technologies

view channel

Precise Ion Irradiation Dosing Method Developed for Cancer Therapy

Scientists are employing nuclear physics principles to provide more effective approaches to radiotherapy treatment for cancer patients. Radiation therapy using heavy ions is best suitable for cancer patients with tumors that are difficult to access, such as in the brain. These particles scarcely damage the penetrated... Read more

Business

view channel

Cancer Immunotherapy Sector Predicted to Surge to USD 9 Billion Across Major Pharma Through 2022

The immunotherapy market will experience substantial growth through 2022, increasing from USD 1.1 billion in 2012 to nearly USD 9 billion in 2022 (corresponding to 23.8% annual growth) in the United Kingdom, United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan, according to recent market research. This notable growth... Read more
 
Copyright © 2000-2014 Globetech Media. All rights reserved.