October 10, 2012
by Krista Conger
Brian Kobilka, MD, professor and chair of molecular and cellular physiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, has won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on G-protein-coupled receptors.
The receptors, which snake in and out of the cell membrane, serve as one of the main methods of communication within the body — conveying chemical messages into the cell's interior from outside through the membrane. In 2011, Kobilka crystallized one of the receptors bound to its signaling molecule.
About 1,000 human genes encode the receptors. They regulate the beating of our hearts, the workings of our brains and nearly every other physiological process. About 40 percent of all medications target these receptors, including Zyprexa, which is used to treat schizophrenia; the antihistamine Clarinex; and Zantac, which is used for stomach ulcers and gastro-esophageal reflux disease.
G-protein-coupled receptors are also involved in some kinds of drug addictions, such as addiction to morphine and other opiates.
Read the full article, with real-time updates, at the Stanford School of Medicine.