This year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry honors the discovery of the ubiquitin system of regulated protein degradation, a fundamental process that influences key cellular events such as the cell cycle, malignant transformation, and responses to inflammation and immunity.
Ubiquitin is a protein found within cells that targets other proteins for elimination. Scientists have long known that all cells manufacture and subsequently discard an array of proteins involved in a variety of cellular processes. Although many scientists over the years have focused their research on learning more about how cells make proteins, until recently few have explored how cells go about discarding proteins, and the impact that process has on disease.
More than twenty-five years ago, Avram Hershko took a road less traveled in science and began studying how cells rid themselves of unwanted or damaged proteins. With the help of his colleagues, Hershko discovered the ubiquitin system and eventually determined that it impacts major physiological processes in the body. Scientists now know that it is involved in regulating cell division, aids in controlling embryonic development, and helps maintain the immune system. It is implicated in a number of diseases as well, including cervical cancer caused by the human papilloma virus. Because it is involved in the body's inflammatory response to invading microbes, it may a
Contact: Pamela Clapp Hinkle
Marine Biological Laboratory