Linda Buck’s research has transformed the field of odorant perception through the cloning of mammalian olfactory receptors. Together with Richard Axel, Buck developed an ingenious method to identify a G protein-coupled odorant receptor family of unprecedented size, comprising up to 1000 distinct genes members. Buck then used olfactory receptor genes as molecular tools to gain insight into the mechanisms and organisations strategies underlying odor perception. Her work showed that the olfactory epithelium is comprised of spatial zones that express different sets of receptor genes and that each zone is a mosaic of randomly interspersed neurons expressing different receptors. Buck then showed that individual olfactory neurons express a single receptor gene. In later work, Buck has documented the organization of olfactory axonal projections into the brain.
Buck’s work has been recognised by award of the 2004 Nobel Prize.
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Jointly with Richard Axel for their discoveries of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system.