Americans James Rothman and Randy Schekman and German-born researcher Thomas Sudhof discovered the machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in cells, the Nobel Assembly in at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm said Monday in a release.
The three laureates discovered the molecular principles regulate how molecules are delivered to the right place at the right time in the cell.
All cells produce and export molecules. The molecules -- or cargo -- are transported around the cell in small packages called vesicles. A defect in vesicle transport occurs in a number of diseases, including a number of neurological and immunological disorders.
Schekman discovered a set of genes required for vesicle traffic. James Rothman unraveled protein machinery that allows vesicles to fuse with their targets to permit transfer of cargo. Sudhof revealed how signals instruct vesicles to release their cargo with precision.
Through their discoveries, Rothman, Schekman and Sudhof "revealed the exquisitely precise control system for the transport and delivery of cellular cargo," a fundamental process in cell physiology, the release said.
"These discoveries have had a major impact on our understanding of how cargo is delivered with timing and precision within and outside the cell," the assembly said in the release. "Vesicle transport and fusion operate, with the same general principles, in organisms as different as yeast and man."
Rothman is professor and chairman in the Department of Cell Biology at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.
Randy is on the faculty of the University of California-Berkeley where he is professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. He also is investigator with Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Sudhof, born in Gottingen, Germany, is an an investigator with Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a professor of molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford University in California.