Rothman said he lost grant money for the work recognized by the Nobel committee, but he will now reapply, hoping the prize will make a difference in receiving funding.
Schekman said he was awakened at 1 a.m. at his home in California by the chairman of the prize committee, just as he was suffering from jetlag after returning from a trip to Germany the night before.
"I wasn't thinking too straight. I didn't have anything elegant to say," he told The Associated Press. "All I could say was 'Oh, my God,' and that was that."
He called the prize a wonderful acknowledgment of the work he and his students had done. "I called my lab manager and I told him to go buy a couple bottles of Champagne and expect to have a celebration with my lab," he said.
Sudhof, who was born in Germany but moved to the U.S. in 1983 and also has American citizenship, told the AP he received the call from the committee while driving in Spain, where he was due to give a talk.
"And like a good citizen I pulled over and picked up the phone," he said. "To be honest, I thought at first it was a joke. I have a lot of friends who might play these kinds of tricks."
"I was stunned and I was literally speechless," Sudhof later told reporters.
The medicine prize kicked off this year's Nobel announcements. The awards in physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics will be announced this week and next. Each prize is worth 8 million Swedish kronor ($1.2 million).
Rothman and Schekman won the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for their research in 2002 — an award often seen as a precursor of a Nobel Prize. Sudhof won a Lasker last month.
Established by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Prizes have been handed out since 1901.
Last year's Nobel in medicine went to Britain's John Gurdon and Japan's Shinya Yamanaka for their contributions to stem cell science.
Karl Ritter reported from Stockholm. Associated Press writers Malin Rising in Stockholm, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Matt Surman in London, and Stephen Singer in Hartford, Conn. contributed to this report.
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