Brian Kobilka, MD, professor and chair of molecular and cellular physiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, received the 2012 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. He shared the prize with Robert Lefkowitz, MD, professor of biochemistry and of medicine at Duke University.
The two men were selected for their work on G-protein-coupled receptors, a number of proteins that reach through cell walls.
Understanding how they work has been crucial to unravelling the complex network of signalling between cells.
Kobilka’s laboratory focuses on a particular type of GPCR called adrenergic receptors, which are activated by adrenaline and its close cousin noradrenaline. Secreted by the adrenal glands and certain nerve cells, these two “molecules on a mission” regulate key physiological actions in the central nervous system, heart and musculature. They are acclaimed for tripping off the “fight or flight” response, which steels middle-aged mortals’ melting muscles for high-stakes activities like fending off saber-tooth tigers or running to catch a bus.
Like all GPCRs, an adrenergic receptor consists of three portions. One is anchored within a cell’s outer membrane. The second juts from the cell’s outer membrane surface and is exposed to the external environment. And the third extends into the cell’s fluid interior, or cytoplasm.
Date: October 10, 2012
Source: Stanford University School of Medicine