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Purifying tRNA (Part 2)


Purifying tRNA
Sydney Brenner Scientist
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Now, furthermore, at the same time, Francis had decided that, 'We've got to start working on protein synthesis and what we've got to do is to start working on these Transfer RNAs'. So he started together with… with John Littlewood and Mahlon Hoagland who came here in that great glorious year to start to see whether they could purify transfer RNA, and start to work on protein synthesis; and so, you know, this was the whole thing: could we prove the adaptor hypothesis? Could we decode this way? So we had all of these experiments going on and we had this wonderful group in that year. Seymour, George, Mahlon Hoagland. Mahlon Hoagland's great... great accomplishment that year was to perform the guitar in the Green Man pub in Grantchester. They still remember him there because he stayed in the house next door which is Byron Lodge and he still remembers this as well to become that. And… and now of course there were competitors in this field. That is having formulated this… this program, many people said, 'We'll do this as well', and one of the ones was Cyrus Leventhal and decided he'd also do a gene protein problem and he would do it with a bacterial gene. So it'd become… that is, he would do it with alkaline phosphates; they could purify this, they could do this. There were other people working with bacteriophage and of course the… the other person who did it as well, later on, was Charles Yanofsky but Charles Yanofsky is a very interesting man in that he decided to work on tryptophan biosynthesis as a graduate student, starting with David Bonner, and he's just worked on that all of his life and fed into this whatever problems emerged. So he didn't start from this other end and that's different you see because we said, 'You have to get a system to prove this', and of course that I think is also very important and something which of course you learn, and something which I think is... is absolutely still important today and I'm still doing it which is that once you've formulated a question, and if it's general enough, it means you can solve it in any biological system. So what you want to do is to find experimentally which is the best one to solve that problem and as long as it's general enough you will find the solution there and the choice of the experimental object remains one of the most important things to do in biology and which sort of is, I think, one of the great places to do innovative work.

South African Sydney Brenner (1927-2019) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2002. His joint discovery of messenger RNA, and, in more recent years, his development of gene cloning, sequencing and manipulation techniques along with his work for the Human Genome Project have led to his standing as a pioneer in the field of genetics and molecular biology.

Listeners: Lewis Wolpert

Lewis Wolpert is Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology of University College, London. His research interests are in the mechanisms involved in the development of the embryo. He was originally trained as a civil engineer in South Africa but changed to research in cell biology at King's College, London in 1955. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1980 and awarded the CBE in 1990. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1999. He has presented science on both radio and TV and for five years was Chairman of the Committee for the Public Understanding of Science.



Listen to Lewis Wolpert at Web of Stories



Tags: Green Man, Grantchester, Francis Crick, John Littlewood, Mahlon Hoagland, Seymour Benzer, Byron Lodge, Cyrus Leventhal, Charles Yanofsky, David Bonner

Duration: 3 minutes, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: April-May 1994

Date story went live: 24 January 2008