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The replicon


Isolating the repressor
François Jacob Scientist
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[Q] In the end, it wasn't the Pasteurian laboratory who isolated the repressor?


[Q] Did you regret it?

Yes, I didn't really appreciate it. I thought that the geneticists had worked much harder than the chemists. And that the chemists, whose job it was to isolate the repressor hadn't isolated it. Actually, the people that isolated the repressor used one or two tricks, such as obtaining mutants that did much more than the normal strain, the wild-type, because obviously, the quantity of repressor per cell is very small. And we could expect that it would be very small. So they had better isolate the mutants that were doing too much. And they found some, which simplified the isolation of the repressor.

[Q] But in the end, the isolation? Well, it wasn't us. It wasn't you, but it was a perfect confirmation.

Yes, it was even indispensable. But that's why it would have been good if it had been us.

[Q] Finalement, c'est pas le laboratoire Pasteurien qui a isolé le répresseur?


[Q] Ça a été un regret pour vous?

Oui, ça j'ai pas tellement apprécié. J'ai trouvé que les généticiens s'étaient beaucoup plus activés que les chimistes. Et que les chimistes dont c'était le boulot d'isoler le répresseur n'avaient pas isolé le répresseur. En fait, les gens qui ont isolé le répresseur ont utilisé une ou deux astuces, telles qu'obtenir des mutants qui en faisaient beaucoup plus que la souche normale, sauvage, parce qu'évidemment, la quantité de répresseur par cellule est très petite. Et on pouvait s'attendre à ce qu'elle soit très petite. Donc, il y avait intérêt à isoler des mutants qui en fassent trop. Ils en ont trouvés, et ça a permis de simplifier l'isolement du répresseur.

[Q] Mais finalement l'isolement... Mais c'était pas nous. C'était pas vous, mais c'était une confirmation parfaite.

Oui, c'était même indispensable. Mais c'est pour ça qu'il eut été bon que ce fut nous.

François Jacob (1920-2013) was a French biochemist whose work has led to advances in the understanding of the ways in which genes are controlled. In 1965 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, together with Jacque Monod and André Lwoff, for his contribution to the field of biochemistry. His later work included studies on gene control and on embryogenesis. Besides the Nobel Prize, he also received the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science for 1996 and was elected a member of the French Academy in 1996.

Listeners: Michel Morange

Michel Morange is a professor of Biology and Director of the Centre Cavaillès of History and Philosophy of Science at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. After having obtained a Bachelor in biochemistry and two PhDs, one in Biochemistry, the other in History and Philosophy of Science, he went on to join the research unit of Molecular Genetics headed by François Jacob, in the Department of Molecular Biology at the Pasteur Institute, Paris. Together with Olivier Bensaude, he discovered that Heat Shock Proteins are specifically expressed on the onset of the mouse zygotic genome activation. Since then he has been working on the properties of Heat Shock Proteins, their role in aggregation and on the regulation of expression of these proteins during mouse embryogenesis. He is the author of 'A History of Molecular Biology' and 'The Misunderstood Gene'.

Michel Morange est généticien et professeur à L'Université Paris VI ainsi qu'à l'Ecole Normale Supérieure où il dirige le Centre Cavaillès d'Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences. Après l'obtention d'une license en Biochimie ainsi que de deux Doctorats, l'un en Biochimie, l'autre en Histoire et Philosophie des Sciences, il rejoint le laboratoire de Génétique Moléculaire dirigé par le Professeur François Jacob à l'Institut Pasteur. Ses principaux travaux de recherche se sont portés sur l'Histoire de la Biologie au XXème siècle, la naissance et le développement de la Biologie Moléculaire, ses transformations récentes et ses interactions avec les autres disciplines biologiques. Auteur de "La Part des Gènes" ainsi que de "Histoire de la Biologie Moléculaire", il est spécialiste de la structure, de la fonction et de l'ingénerie des protéines.

Tags: Pasteur Institute

Duration: 58 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008