1993 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award

Signals that target proteins across membranes

The name of cell biologist Günter Blobel dominates the field of protein translocation. Dr. Blobel created the field and has been responsible for many key advances. His work has provided the intellectual framework within which questions about protein sorting and targeting are formulated, the experimental paradigms that are used to address these questions, and a wealth of discoveries to support and advance the theoretical framework upon which his research is based.

In 1975, Dr. Blobel developed the "signal hypothesis," which holds that the signal sequence is the determinant for protein translocation. He then provided cellular and molecular evidence to explain how proteins pass from the protein synthetic machinery across the endoplasmic reticulum membrane. This highly original work led to the identification of several entities that participate in the protein translocation process, including the signal recognition particle (SRP), the SRP receptor, and "signal peptidases," a new class of enzymes. All these elements have been characterized at the biochemical level by fractionation of cell-free extracts.

Most recently, Dr. Blobel demonstrated the existence of a signal sequence-gated protein transporting channel in a series of seminal and thoughtful experiments melding biochemistry, cell biology and electrophysiology.

In his discoveries about the signal hypothesis, Dr. Blobel used elegant experimental assays which he developed and which are now employed by all researchers in the field, including the first cell-free system for the translocation of secretory proteins into microsomal vesicles derived from endoplasmic reticulum.

Dr. Blobel's scientific contributions represent the highest achievement attainable by an investigator: resolution of a fundamental problem in basic biology. Specifically, his research explains how a cell can organize itself into various compartments while utilizing just one mechanism for protein production. It also demonstrates that these cellular mechanisms are highly conserved among species, and provides insights into organelle biogenesis, cellular secretion, and the evolution of intracellular compartments and membranes.

To Dr. Günter Blobel, for seminal studies elucidating the complex processes by which intracellular proteins are targeted across cell membranes, this 1993 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award is given.