2013 Nobel Prize in medicine won by scientists for work on cell 'delivery system' - James Rothman, Randy Schekman and Thomas Südhof

The three have been rewarded with a prize worth $1.2m (£750,000) for their work on transportation of materials within cells

Science Editor

Three scientists whose work has shed light on the internal “cargo delivery” system of the cell – which ensures that vital chemicals are sent to the correct cellular address at the right time – have each won a share of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Two Americans and a German were jointly awarded the 8m Swedish Kroner (£776,000) prize for their separate work on how miniature, bubble-like packets or “vesicles” are able to pass through the maze of compartments in a cell and identify the correct location for delivering their cargo of chemicals.

Randy Schekman, of the University of California at Berkeley carried out pioneering work in the 1970s on yeast cells which revealed the genes that played a crucial role in this transport system, with mutant cells leading to visible vesicle congestion within the cell.

James Rothman, now at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, worked on mammalian cells in the 1980s and 1990s and showed how proteins enabled vesicles to dock and fuse with their target sites on the complex network of internal membranes separating the compartments within a cell.

Meanwhile, German-born Thomas Sudhof [umlaut over u], now based at Stanford University in California, built on the work of Schekman and Rothman and discovered the precisely-controlled mechanism that allows vesicles to release their load of chemicals at the right location and, crucially, at the right point in time between cells.

Professor Sudhof, who worked on nerve cells, found that the calcium-controlled mechanism at the heart of vesicle function enabled the delivery of chemical messengers or neurotransmitters across the tiny gap or synapse that links two or more communicating neurons.

“Together, Rothman, Schekman and Sudohof have transformed the way we view transport of molecular cargo to specific destinations inside and outside the cell,” said the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

“Their discoveries explain a long-standing enigma of cell biology and also shed new light on how disturbances in this machinery can have deleterious effects and contribute to conditions such as neurological diseases, diabetes and immunological disorders,” it said.

Goran Hansson, secretary of the Nobel committee, compared that the problem of delivering chemical cargo within and between cells to the complex transport network of a modern city.

“Imagine hundreds of thousands of people who are traveling around hundreds of miles of streets; how are they going to find the right way? Where will the bus stop and open its doors so that people can get out? There are similar problems in the cell,” Mr Hansson said.

Professor Schekman said he was suffering from jet lag after returning from a trip to Europe the day before when he was awakened at 1am by a phone call to his home in California by the chairman of the Nobel Prize committee.

“My first reaction was Oh, my God! That was also my second reaction….I wasn't thinking too straight. I didn't have anything elegant to say. All I could say was 'Oh my God,' and that was that,” he told the Associated Press.

“I called my lab manager and I told him to go buy a couple bottles of Champagne and expect to have a celebration with my lab," he added.

Sudhof, who was born in Germany but moved to the U.S. in 1983 and also has American citizenship, said he received the call from the committee while driving toward the city of Baeza, in southern Spain, where he was due to give a talk.

“I got the call while I was driving and like a good citizen I pulled over and picked up the phone. To be honest, I thought at first it was a joke. I have a lot of friends who might play these kinds of tricks,” Professor Sudhof said.

“At least in the United States, which is now my home, there is a lot of soul-searching about the sense of science. And I hope and believe that I can do a little bit to help clarify the positions,” he said.

Professor Rothman said: “This is not an overnight thing. Most of it has been accomplished and developed over many years, if not decades.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?