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A nice story about quasispecies


Setting parameters for the kinetic theory of replication
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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What parameters do we put into our theory? Again, we said, 'Well, we have to measure these parameters. We have to do experiments and find out how nucleic acids reproduce... what the enzymic mechanism is'. We just have talked about fast reaction work, in which we showed that enzymes are complicated reaction systems with many reaction steps, so here we started now to study in detail the replication mechanism of nucleic acids. The first experiments were very simple experiments... were relaxation experiments on how nucleic acids behave.

[Q] You already started in the late '60s?

Yes, I mentioned already the fast reading rate, and that was mainly Dietmar Pörschke who did first a thesis on it and then continued and studied... or actually also looked at more complicated reaction system like the repression systems, lac operon, the famous system of Jacob and Monod. So first we started to know more about properties of nucleic acids, but then we had to start the replication mechanism, to use Spiegelman's enzyme... isolated enzyme, and look exactly at the kinetics of replication. And that was Christof Biebricher who did this work, and we have years of work there where we completely measured the mechanism of nucleic acid replication so that we could put in the right parameters into our equation and not speculate about any models.

Nobel Prize winning German biophysical chemist, Manfred Eigen (1927-2019), was best known for his work on fast chemical reactions and his development of ways to accurately measure these reactions down to the nearest billionth of a second. He published over 100 papers with topics ranging from hydrogen bridges of nucleic acids to the storage of information in the central nervous system.

Listeners: Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitch

Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch is the eldest daughter of the Austrian physicist Klaus Osatitsch, an internationally renowned expert in gas dynamics, and his wife Hedwig Oswatitsch-Klabinus. She was born in the German university town of Göttingen where her father worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Aerodynamics under Ludwig Prandtl. After World War II she was educated in Stockholm, Sweden, where her father was then a research scientist and lecturer at the Royal Institute of Technology.

In 1961 Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch enrolled in Chemistry at the Technical University of Vienna where she received her PhD in 1969 with a dissertation on "Fast complex reactions of alkali ions with biological membrane carriers". The experimental work for her thesis was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Göttingen under Manfred Eigen.

From 1971 to the present Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch has been working as a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen in the Department of Chemical Kinetics which is headed by Manfred Eigen. Her interest was first focused on an application of relaxation techniques to the study of fast biological reactions. Thereafter, she engaged in theoretical studies on molecular evolution and developed game models for representing the underlying chemical proceses. Together with Manfred Eigen she wrote the widely noted book, "Laws of the Game" (Alfred A. Knopf Inc. 1981 and Princeton University Press, 1993). Her more recent studies were concerned with comparative sequence analysis of nucleic acids in order to find out the age of the genetic code and the time course of the early evolution of life. For the last decade she has been successfully establishing industrial applications in the field of evolutionary biotechnology.

Tags: replication mechanism, nucleic acids, relaxation experiments, repression systems, lac operon, Dietmar Pörschke, Jacques Lucien Monod, François Jacob, Sol Spiegelman, Christof Kurt Biebricher

Duration: 1 minute, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008