Robert Lefkowitz (Duke University; left) and his former postdoctoral fellow Brian Kobilka (Stanford; right) take home the 2012 Nobel prize in Chemistry for their discoveries in the field of cell signaling by G Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCR). Considered the Holy Grail in the membrane protein field, these are major targets of modern drugs.

• More than 800 human genes comprise the GPCR family, making it the largest group of membrane protein receptors. Together, they detect hormones, growth factors, odorants, neurotransmitters and thousands of different ligands. The visual protein of the eye, rhodopsin, is a GPCR. They share a common structure of 7 helices that twist through the membrane, attaching to molecular switches (G proteins) on the inside. The whole structure acts as an on/off switch that sets off a signaling cascade that can be amplified and tuned. Lefkowitz cloned the first GPCR and Kobilka solved the structure of the adrenergic receptor, β2AR, that controls the flight or fight response.

Image of β2AR:

#scienceeveryday #nobelprize  

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  1. If any Indians are there, the media would have popularized ’em already.

  2. Rajini Rao says:

    The announcement was made by the Nobel committee within the last few hours.

  3. Yes, Rajini Rao Still the Indian media latches onto these sort of news. 🙂

  4. Anyways, I am very glad about work on GPCR receiving Nobel.

  5. Duke Bluedevils won 🙂 there will be a big party here at least in the labs 🙂

  6. Rajini Rao says:

    There’s always much jubilation among colleagues when a fellow scientist wins the Nobel. It is really considered to be the recognition of the entire field, in this case of GPCR research. I have a dear friend who works in this field and knows Brian Kobilka. While I don’t work on GPCR directly, I use the rhodopsin example in my lectures to show the link between transporters and receptors.

  7. Rajini Rao says:

    Well said. They are already helpful, prabhat parimal 🙂

  8. Great job Rajini Rao hope to see you there one day.

  9. Rajini Rao says:

    Xiao-Pei Guan , there’s some buzz in the Twitterverse and bloggosphere about how this is not Chemistry. It’s worth noting that Nobels in the field of membrane proteins (channels, pumps and now, receptors) typically are given through Chemistry. Examples are Peter Mitchell (chemiosmotic theory), Boyer/Walker/Skou (ATP synthase, sodium pump), Rod McKinnon (K channels) and Michel/Huber/Diesenhofer (photosynthetic reaction center). 

    In all these examples, the studies were at the intersection of biophysics and biochemistry, so Chemistry is the traditional Nobel route instead of Medicine and Physiology.

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