2000 Nobel goes to Arvid Carlsson, Paul Greengard and Eric Kandel

Slow synaptic transmission grabs the Nobel for Physiology or Medicine.

By | October 9, 2000

LONDON. So, it wasn't the human genome; nor the nematode. Today, nerves seem to have got to the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, which this morning announced the award of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2000 jointly to Arvid Carlsson, Paul Greengard and Eric Kandel.

Eric Kandel — at 71 the spring chicken of the three winners — is at the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, Columbia University, New York. He was rewarded "for his discoveries of how the efficiency of synapses can be modified." Kandel developed the sea slug Aplysia — an organism with just 20,000 nerve cells — as an experimental model, using a simple reflex that protects Aplysia's gills to study learning. He demonstrated that short term and long term memory in the sea slug are located at the synapse. In the 1990s he extended these studies to mice, and showed that the same type of changes in synaptic function also take place in mammals. This Nobel is Kandel's 29th scientific prize or medal, including the Lasker Award (with VB Mountcastle) in 1983.

Paul Greengard, 74, of the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Rockefeller University, New York, was rewarded for his discovery of how dopamine and certain other neurotransmitters exert their action by "slow synaptic transmission." This occurs through the phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of key proteins — such as ion channels in the cell membrane — and creates effects that last from seconds to hours. The Karolinska also mentions Greengard's work on DARPP-32, a key regulatory protein, and his contribution to the understanding of the action of several drugs. This is his 19th scientific award.

Arvid Carlsson, 77, of the Department of Pharmacology, University of Gothenburg, was rewarded "for his discovery that dopamine is a transmitter in the brain and that it has great importance for our ability to control movements." The Karolinska emphasises Carlsson's contributions to the development of L-dopa as a treatment for Parkinson's disease, to the understanding of the action of drugs for schizophrenia, and the development of selective serotonin uptake blockers as antidepressants. The Nobel is Carlsson's 26th scientific award.

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