Discussion of all aspects of biological molecules, biochemical processes and laboratory procedures in the field.
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- Inland Taipan
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Prior to Beadle & Tatum there was no direct connection between genetics and biochemistry. One could identify genes by phenotype, but nobody really knew how the genes produced the trait you see in a genetic experiment. And the biochemist could study the properties of an enzyme, but no one really understood where the enzyme came from—beyond the obvious fact that cells must somehow make them. The proof that nucleic acid was responsible for transferring genetic information was still more than ten years into the future. It had been suggested by Garrod that genes might be related to enzymes when he suggested that some inheritable diseases might be caused by the lack of certain enzymes, but until Beadle & Tatum, no one was listening. So it was a big deal for both genetics and biochemistry when they provided convincing evidence that there is a one-to-one correspondence between a phenotypically defined gene and a biochemically defined “enzyme” (now we would say “protein”). If you want to know the details of their experiment, I recommend Gunther Stent’s Molecular Genetics: A Personal Narrative, or go look up the original 1941 paper.
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