Virtual Library

Neuroscience (Biosciences)

A component of The World-Wide Web Virtual Library

Supported by The Department of Neurology and Neuroscience
at Cornell University Medical College

2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Awarded to Richard Axel and Linda B. Buck

2004 Nobel Prize to:

4 October 2004

The 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Richard Axel and Linda B. Buck for discoveries concerning "odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system."

Axel is University Professor at Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons and Buck is currently a Member at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle.

Their work has increased our understanding of the sense of smell in mammals, including the diversity of odorant receptors and the mechanisms by which we experience one of our most complex senses in an orderly fashion. In many mammals, there are about one thousand odorant receptor molecules, each a member of the same family of membrane proteins but distinct in their odorant specificity. Axel and Buck identified this gene family--forming about three percent of the genome--and found that each olfactory receptor cell in the nasal epithelium expresses only one of the thousand genes.

Each receptor responds to a selective set of odors, and combinations of receptor activity account for our ability to sense many distinct odors. Additional work by Axel and Buck showed that these genes also control connections the sensory cells make on neural way stations--the glomeruli--which display similar specificity.

Axel, a graduate of Columbia College with the M.D. from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, is University professor at Columbia and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. A Member of the National Academy of Sciences, he is a prior winner of multiple awards, including Columbia's Hamilton Award.

Buck is a graduate of the University of Washington in Seattle with the Ph.D. from UT Southwestern in Dallas. She was a postdoc in Axel's Lab, moving on to the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and rising to Professor there; she joined the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center as Member in 2002. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and a winner of the Rosenstiel Award, she and Axel have jointly shared the Edward Perl Prize from UNC and the Unilever Science Award.

The Nobel announcement is at:

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  3. See also:
    1. Biosciences in WWW Virtual Library
    2. Neurosciences on the Internet
    3. WWW Virtual Library: Physiology & Biophysics
    4. WWW Virtual Library: Medicine

The WWWVL:Neuroscience acknowledges the following as advisors, colleagues, or exemplars: N.A. Busis, W.H. Calvin, E.P. Gardner, K. Robison.

WWWVL: Neuroscience Maintainer:
Daniel Gardner
4 October 2004