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The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2021 was awarded jointly to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian “for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.”

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

UPDATED on 10/14/2021

49th (2019) – Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research

for their remarkable contributions to our understanding of the sensations of temperature, pain and touch

David Julius – 49th (2019) – Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research

for their remarkable contributions to our understanding of the sensations of temperature, pain and touch


(2021 Nobel Prize)
Morris Herzstein Chair in Molecular Biology and Medicine
Professor and Chair, Department of Physiology
School of Medicine
The University of California, San Francisco
San Francisco, CA USA

Ardem Patapoutian – 49th (2019) – Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research for their remarkable contributions to our understanding of the sensations of temperature, pain and touch


(2021 Nobel Prize)

Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Professor, Department of Neuroscience
The Scripps Research Institute
La Jolla, CA USA

Press release: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2021. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2021. Mon. 4 Oct 2021. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2021/press-release/>

David Julius was born in 1955 in New York, USA. He received a Ph.D. in 1984 from University of California, Berkeley and was a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, in New York. David Julius was recruited to the University of California, San Francisco in 1989 where he is now Professor.

Ardem Patapoutian was born in 1967 in Beirut, Lebanon. In his youth, he moved from a war-torn Beirut to Los Angeles, USA and received a Ph.D. in 1996 from California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, USA. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco. Since 2000, he is a scientist at Scripps Research, La Jolla, California where he is now Professor. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator since 2014.

Meet UC’s 2021 Nobelists

Three UC-affiliated scientists have won Nobel Prizes this year: UCSF professor David Julius, UCLA alum Ardem Patapoutian and UC Irvine alum David W.C. MacMillan.

SOURCE

UC’s new Nobelists
UC San Francisco, UCLA and UC Irvine
Three UC-affiliated scientists were awarded Nobel Prizes this week. UC San Francisco professor David Julius shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with UCLA alum Ardem Patapoutian. UC Irvine alum David W.C. MacMillan won in chemistry. 

From: University of California <webeditor@ucop.edu>
Reply-To: University of California <webeditor@ucop.edu>
Date: Friday, October 8, 2021 at 1:02 PM
To: Aviva Lev-Ari <avivalev-ari@alum.berkeley.edu>
Subject: 3 UC Nobel Prize winners!

Key publications

Caterina MJ, Schumacher MA, Tominaga M, Rosen TA, Levine JD, Julius D. The capsaicin receptor: a heat-activated ion channel in the pain pathway. Nature 1997:389:816-824.

Tominaga M, Caterina MJ, Malmberg AB, Rosen TA, Gilbert H, Skinner K, Raumann BE, Basbaum AI, Julius D. The cloned capsaicin receptor integrates multiple pain-producing stimuli. Neuron 1998:21:531-543.

Caterina MJ, Leffler A, Malmberg AB, Martin WJ, Trafton J, Petersen-Zeitz KR, Koltzenburg M, Basbaum AI, Julius D. Impaired nociception and pain sensation in mice lacking the capsaicin receptor. Science 2000:288:306-313

McKemy DD, Neuhausser WM, Julius D. Identification of a cold receptor reveals a general role for TRP channels in thermosensation. Nature 2002:416:52-58

Peier AM, Moqrich A, Hergarden AC, Reeve AJ, Andersson DA, Story GM, Earley TJ, Dragoni I, McIntyre P, Bevan S, Patapoutian A. A TRP channel that senses cold stimuli and menthol. Cell 2002:108:705-715

Coste B, Mathur J, Schmidt M, Earley TJ, Ranade S, Petrus MJ, Dubin AE, Patapoutian A. Piezo1 and Piezo2 are essential components of distinct mechanically activated cation channels. Science 2010:330: 55-60

Ranade SS, Woo SH, Dubin AE, Moshourab RA, Wetzel C, Petrus M, Mathur J, Bégay V, Coste B, Mainquist J, Wilson AJ, Francisco AG, Reddy K, Qiu Z, Wood JN, Lewin GR, Patapoutian A. Piezo2 is the major transducer of mechanical forces for touch sensation in mice. Nature 2014:516:121-125

Discoveries by this year's Nobel Prize laureates
Figure 4 The seminal discoveries by this year’s Nobel Prize laureates have explained how heat, cold and touch can initiate signals in our nervous system. The identified ion channels are important for many physiological processes and disease conditions.

IMAGE SOURCE: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2021/press-release/


The science heats up!

In the latter part of the 1990’s, David Julius at the University of California, San Francisco, USA, saw the possibility for major advances by analyzing how the chemical compound capsaicin causes the burning sensation we feel when we come into contact with chili peppers. Capsaicin was already known to activate nerve cells causing pain sensations, but how this chemical actually exerted this function was an unsolved riddle. Julius and his co-workers created a library of millions of DNA fragments corresponding to genes that are expressed in the sensory neurons which can react to pain, heat, and touch. Julius and colleagues hypothesized that the library would include a DNA fragment encoding the protein capable of reacting to capsaicin. They expressed individual genes from this collection in cultured cells that normally do not react to capsaicin. After a laborious search, a single gene was identified that was able to make cells capsaicin sensitive (Figure 2). The gene for capsaicin sensing had been found! Further experiments revealed that the identified gene encoded a novel ion channel protein and this newly discovered capsaicin receptor was later named TRPV1. When Julius investigated the protein’s ability to respond to heat, he realized that he had discovered a heat-sensing receptor that is activated at temperatures perceived as painful (Figure 2).

David Julius' work
Figure 2 David Julius used capsaicin from chili peppers to identify TRPV1, an ion channel activated by painful heat. Additional related ion channels were identified and we now understand how different temperatures can induce electrical signals in the nervous system.

The discovery of TRPV1 was a major breakthrough leading the way to the unravelling of additional temperature-sensing receptors. Independently of one another, both David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian used the chemical substance menthol to identify TRPM8, a receptor that was shown to be activated by cold. Additional ion channels related to TRPV1 and TRPM8 were identified and found to be activated by a range of different temperatures. Many laboratories pursued research programs to investigate the roles of these channels in thermal sensation by using genetically manipulated mice that lacked these newly discovered genes. David Julius’ discovery of TRPV1 was the breakthrough that allowed us to understand how differences in temperature can induce electrical signals in the nervous system.

SOURCE

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2021/press-release/

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