German cell-biologist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1999 for the discovery that intrinsic signals govern the transport and localization of proteins in the cell.
The cells of an organism are constantly producing large numbers of proteins that carry out essential functions. They either travel to different compartments, or organelles, of the cells that produce them or are transported out of the cells to another location. Blobel discovered that each protein has a built-in signal that determines which organelle it has to go to or whether it is transported out of the cell. A newly made protein has a component called the signal sequence, which is recognized by receptors on the surface of an organelle. He demonstrated that this signal is specific to a certain type of organelle and so governs the location of the protein in the cell. These principles have been found to apply to plant, yeast, and animal cells.
This discovery has significant importance to modern cell biological research and has direct application to research into the use of cells as ‘protein factories’ for drug production.
Blobel was born in Waltersdorf, Silesia, Germany. He studied at the University of Tübingen for his MD degree, which he was awarded in 1960. Blobel received his PhD in oncology from the University of Wisconsin, USA, in 1967. He joined Rockefeller University, New York, as a postdoctoral fellow in 1967 and worked in the laboratory of cell biology. He became assistant professor at Rockefeller University in 1969, associate professor in 1973, and was appointed a full professor in 1979. Blobel became a member of the US National Academy of Sciences in 1983 and received an appointment from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1986. He became the John D Rockefeller Jr professor in 1992.
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n 1 the solution of proteins and metabolites inside a biological cell, in which the organelles are suspended