Medical Definition of Protein ZIP code

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Protein ZIP code: An informal name for a molecular cell biology system of signals or "address tags" that guide the movement of a protein within a cell. In more technical terms, protein ZIP codes* are molecular signals that direct the protein from the endoplasmic reticulum, where it is assembled, to the cytoplasm of the cell and into other cellular compartments such as the nucleus of the cell.

Mutations in this molecular system of protein "ZIP codes" have been found to cause several human genetic (hereditary) disorders, including cystic fibrosis and hyperoxaluria (a disorder that causes a special type of stone to form in the urine beginning in childhood).

In 1999 Dr. Gunter Blobel of the Rockefeller University in New York received the Nobel Laureate in Medicine or Physiology for his discovery of this protein signal system of "ZIP codes."

* For the benefit of viewers not familiar with the United States mail system, the term "ZIP code" refers to address codes of the U.S. Postal Service used to sort mail into geographic regions.

Reviewed on 9/7/2018

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