The 2010 laureates in Neuroscience
"for discovering the molecular basis of neurotransmitter release"
Three US-based scientists - Thomas Südhof, of Stanford University School of Medicine, Richard Scheller, of the biotech company Genentech, and James Rothman, of Yale University - are the joint recipients of the neuroscience prize for their work to reveal the precise molecular basis of the transfer of signals between nerve cells in the brain. Scientists had already identified the existence of tiny bubble-like structures called vesicles that release neurotransmitters to allow signals to pass between neurons at synapses. From the late 1980s Südhof and Scheller cloned and sequenced the genes that encode the proteins that control the functioning of vesicles and their release of neurotransmitters. Südhof discovered that calcium sensing protein synaptotegmin was the switch for neurotransmitter release. Scheller later provided the first evidence to demonstrate this finding. Rothman took this further by clarifying how vesicles are directed to the points at which they are needed and when to release their contents, not just for those involved in the release of neurotransmitters in the brain but in a wide range of key physiological functions in the body, such as hormone release, insulin secretion and cell division.
The three laureates at The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.