(From left: Randy Schekman, James Rothman and Thomas Sudof)
Three ASBMB members have won 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 will share the prize “for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells,” said the Nobel committee in its announcement.
Schekman used yeast genetics to identify a set of essential genes that were critical for vesicle trafficking. He and his colleagues showed that these genes could be classified into three categories of different aspects of vesicle-transport regulation.
Rothman used biochemical approaches to identify proteins that form a functional complex to control cell fusion. Proteins on the vesicle and target membrane sides bind in specific combinations, ensuring precise delivery of molecular cargo 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.
“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.