Martin Rodbell

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Martin Rodbell (1995)

Martin Rodbell (born December 1, 1925 in Baltimore , Maryland , † December 7, 1998 in Chapel Hill , North Carolina ) was an American biochemist . He discovered the G proteins and was instrumental in clarifying their function for signal transmission in cells. For this work he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1994 together with Alfred G. Gilman .

life and work

Professional career

Martin Rodbell studied biology and chemistry at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore before focusing entirely on biochemistry. In 1954 he received his doctorate from the University of Washington in Seattle. In 1956 he became a biochemist in Bethesda at the National Health Center in the field of nutrition and endocrinology . From 1967 to 1968 Rodbell was in Switzerland and professor and director at the Institute for Clinical Biochemistry at the University of Geneva . Between 1970 and 1985 he was the director of the cell control department at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland .

In 1984 he and Alfred G. Gilman received a Gairdner Foundation International Award . In 1985 he moved to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina as Scientific Director. From 1989 to 1994 he was head of the signal transmission department. In 1987, together with Alfred G. Gilman, he received the Richard Lounsbery Award and in 1994 the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine “for the discovery of cell communication and in particular the discovery of G proteins ”. In the same year he retired.

Rodbell was a member of the National Academy of Sciences (since 1987), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (since 1993) and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences . He was married to Barbara Ledermann, whose sister Susanne was a school friend of Anne Frank .

Importance of Research

Martin Rodbell's work on G proteins, which play an essential role as molecular switches in almost all signal-transmitting processes in the cell, was of major importance for scientific and medical research. G proteins mediate the effect of hormones as well as the stimulation of sensory performances such as sight, smell and taste. Rodbell's research continued the work of Earl Wilbur Sutherland , Nobel laureate in medicine in 1971, who recognized as early as the 1960s that hormones do not penetrate cells, but that they act on the cell surface and that specific biochemical reactions occur in the cell trigger. It was known that cyclic adenosine phosphate (cAMP) acts as a messenger substance by stimulating the synthesis of specific proteins and inducing enzymes.

How a G protein-coupled receptor works

Martin Rodbell was able to show that a further nucleotide, guanosine triphosphate (GTP), is necessary as a substrate for hormonal effects in addition to adenosine triphosphate (ATP). With the hormin Glukagen, his working group was able to show that an effective binding of the hormone to the cell membrane is only possible when the guanosine triphosphate is present. In the 1960s to 1970s, Rodbell was able to demonstrate that three functional units are required for signal transmission from the outside of the cell to the inside of the cell:

  • a receptor or discriminator that recognizes the incoming signals,
  • a transducer that converts the signal and
  • an amplifier that releases a sufficient amount of a messenger substance inside the site

Rodbell's main discovery was the identification of the transducer that was driven by the energy-rich guanosine-5-triphosphate. Together with Alfred G. Gilman, he was able to show that these transducers, known as G proteins, act as switches in the cell and convert the signals from the outside and pass them on to the amplifier proteins.


  • Bernhard Kupfer: Lexicon of Nobel Prize Winners . Patmos Verlag, Düsseldorf 2001; Pp. 263-264. ISBN 3-491-72451-1

Web links

Commons : Martin Rodbell  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Gisela Baumgart: Rodbell, Martin. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 1256.