Thomas C. Sudhof

Stanford University

Primary Section: 24, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Secondary Section: 21, Biochemistry
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2002)


Thomas Christian Südhof is a neuroscientist whose work has described how neurons communicate with each other at synapses, and how such communication becomes impaired in neuropsychiatric and neurological diseases. He is known particularly for the discovery of how synapses rapidly release neurotransmitters, and how neurons form synapses via engagement of trans-synaptic adhesion molecules. Dr. Südhof was born in Göttingen, Germany, and obtained his M.D. and doctoral degrees from the University of Göttingen. He performed his doctoral thesis work at the Max-Planck-Institut für biophysikalische Chemie in Göttingen with Prof. Victor P. Whittaker on the biophysical structure of secretory granules. Dr. Südhof trained as a postdoctoral fellow with Drs. Mike Brown and Joe Goldstein at UT Southwestern in Dallas, TX, and elucidated the structure, expression and cholesterol-dependent regulation of the LDL receptor gene. Subsequently, Südhof served on the faculty of UT Southwestern in Dallas among others as the founding chair of the Department of Neuroscience. In 2008, Südhof moved to Stanford University, where he currently holds the position of Avram Goldstein Professor in the School of Medicine.

Research Interests

Dr. Südhof’s research originally focused on how neurons in brain communicate with each other at synapses. Specifically, his initial work analyzed the mechanisms by which an action potential in a presynaptic neuron triggers the secretion of neurotransmitters, which initiates synaptic transmission. This work revealed a general mechanism of regulated secretion, which led to Südhof’s share of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2013. More recently, Südhof’s studies have centered on the question of how synapses in brain are formed and how their properties are shaped, resulting in the identification of trans-neuronal signaling mechanisms that control synaptic connections in brain. Moreover, Südhof’s work has addressed how these synaptic connections become impaired in various neuropsychiatric disorders, in particular schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, with the hope of gaining insight into possible new therapeutic avenues.

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