The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1999
Born: 21 May 1936, Waltersdorf, Germany (now Niegoslawice, Poland)
Died: 18 February 2018, New York, NY, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, USA
Prize motivation: “for the discovery that proteins have intrinsic signals that govern their transport and localization in the cell”
Prize share: 1/1
Proteins, molecules composed of chains of amino acids, play a crucial role in life processes in our cells. Proteins are continuously being transported through membranes or walls that both separate the cell from its surroundings and separate the inner parts of the cell, the organelles. In 1975 Günter Blobel showed that in certain cases amino acids in a protein serve as an address label that determines where a protein is to be delivered. Amino acid sequences determine whether a protein is to be passed through the membrane out of the cell or into an organelle or is to be built in the membrane.