Nobelprijs Fysiologie of Geneeskunde 2000 voor onderzoek van de signaaltransductie in het zenuwstelsel
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Commentaar
17-11-2000
W.H. Gispen

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2000 for research into signal transduction in the nervous system.

- The three Nobel laureates Arvid Carlsson, Paul Greengard and Eric Kandel have made pioneering discoveries concerning slow synaptic transmission between neurons. As common theme, for which the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2000 is given, the Nobel Assembly chose ‘signal transduction in the nervous system’. The work of Carlsson led to the discovery of dopamine as transmitter in the brain and opened the way for the development of the levodopa therapy of patients suffering from Parkinson's disease. His later work concentrated on the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia and the rationale for the mechanism of action of antipsychotics. Greengard pioneered the field of receptor-mediated phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of brain proteins. He was the first to describe the cyclic-AMP-dependent protein kinase in the brain and the activation of this kinase following dopamine receptor activation. A substrate enriched in cells that bear dopamine receptors is ‘dopamine- and cyclic-AMP-regulated phosphoprotein’ (DARPP-32). Phosphorylation by the cyclic-AMP-dependent kinase influences its protein phosphatase inhibiting capacity and, as such, DARPP-32 is an important ‘feed-forward activator’ in the dopamine signal transduction cascade. Kandel received the prize for his contributions to our understanding of the neural substrate of learning and memory. Most of his work was carried out in the sea slug Aplysia in which he was able to relate three psychologically defined forms of learning - habituation, sensitisation, and classical conditioning - to subcellular processes and intercellular signalling. Kandel is known all over the world for his eminent textbook Principles of Neural Science which inspired generations of young neuroscientists. It seems that it is not so much the signal transduction that joins these laureates but their outstanding conceptual approach to, in fact, three different themes of the neurosciences during the second part of the last century.