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Medical News & Perspectives |

2013 Nobel Prize Recognizes Work of Scientists Who Illuminated Molecular Transport System of Cells

M. J. Friedrich
JAMA. 2013;310(19):2027-2029. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.281691.
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Three scientists who worked independently to understand the basic mechanisms involved in the production and transport of proteins and other molecules within and beyond the cell have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2013.

James E. Rothman, PhD, of Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; Randy W. Schekman, PhD, of the University of California, Berkeley; and Thomas C. Südhof, MD, PhD, of Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, each puzzled out a slightly different aspect of the vesicle transport system that lies at the heart of how cells function and communicate. Schekman discovered a set of genes needed for vesicle transport, Rothman discovered the protein machinery that vesicles rely on to fuse with their targets and deliver their cargo, and Südhof discovered the signals that direct vesicles to release their cargo with precision.

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When moving molecules within the cell, a vesicle buds from one membrane (such as from an organelle like the endoplasmic reticulum), docks and fuses with a target membrane of another organelle, and releases its contents. A vesicle exporting molecular cargo from the cell docks and fuses with the cell’s outer membrane and releases the molecules outside the cell, where they can bind to receptors on a target cell.



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