Industry News: 2013 Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded for Vesicle Transport System Regulation Research

08 Oct 2013

The 2013 Nobel Prize honors Dr. James E. Rothman, Dr. Randy W. Schekman and Dr. Thomas C. Südhof who have solved the mystery of how the cell organizes its transport system. The three Nobel Laureates have discovered the molecular principles that govern how the machinery regulating vesicle traffic within cells functions.

The work of the three 2013 Laureates radically altered our understanding of this aspect of cell physiology. These discoveries represented a paradigm shift in our understanding of how the eukaryotic cells, with their complex internal compartmentalization; organize the routing of molecules packaged in vesicles to various intracellular and extracellular destinations

Randy W. Schekman used yeast genetics to identify a set of genes critical for vesicular trafficking.

James E. Rothman embarked on a biochemical approach and identified proteins that form a functional complex controlling cell fusion. Involving proteins on the vesicle and target membrane sides bind in specific combinations, ensuring precise delivery of molecular cargo to the right destinations.

Thomas C. Südhof became interested in how vesicle fusion machinery was controlled. He unraveled the mechanism by which calcium ions trigger release of neurotransmitters, and identified key regulatory components in the vesicle fusion machinery.

These discoveries have elucidated some of the most fundamental processes in eukaryotic cells that collectively ensure that molecular cargo is correctly destined. Their discoveries have had a major impact on our understanding of how cellular communication occurs to sort molecules to precise locations within and outside the cell.

Vesicle transport and fusion is essential for physiological processes ranging from control of nerve cell communication in the brain to immunological responses and hormone section. Deregulation of the transport system is associated with disease in these areas. Without this exquisitely precise organization, the cell would lapse into chaos.