- Martin Karplus of the University of Strasbourg, France, and Harvard University;
- Michael Levitt of the Stanford University School of Medicine, and
- Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles
Specificity in the delivery of molecular cargo is essential for cell function and survival. This specificity is required for the release of neurotransmitters into the presynaptic region of a nerve cell to transmit a signal to a neighbouring nerve cell. Likewise, specificity is required for the export of hormones such as insulin to the cell surface.
While vesicles within the cell were long known to be critical components of this transportation scheme, the precise mechanism by which these vesicles found their correct destination and how they fused with organelles or the plasma membrane to deliver the cargo remained mysterious. The work of the three 2013 Laureates radically altered our understanding of this aspect of cell physiology.
Eukaryotic cells differ from prokaryotic cells by their more complex intracellular organisation. Distinct cellular processes are compartmentalised. This improves efficiency but a problem emerges. Different compartments need to exchange specific molecules and certain molecules need to be exported to the cell exterior. Since most molecules are too large to directly pass through membranes, a mechanism is required to deliver the cargo.
Nobel Peace Prize 2013: Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
The OPCW is charged with overseeing the destruction of Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons, following the atrocity – widely blamed on the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The Norwegian Nobel committee hailed the global chemical watchdog for creating “the chance to eliminate a whole category of deadly weapons”.