Cover image for Operators and promoters : the story of molecular biology and its creators
Operators and promoters : the story of molecular biology and its creators
Echols, Harrison.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley: University of California Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xx, 466 pages : illustrations ; 27 cm
Beginnings: simplicity and elegance, DNA and protein -- The code for life: DNA to protein -- Turning genes on and off: genes that control other genes -- Replicating the genome -- Making RNA from DNA -- The RNA world: new proteins and revised RNAs -- DNA on it's own: genetic recombination -- Regulating the regulators: developmental and salvational decisions -- Making DNA from RNA: the strange life of the retrovirus -- Genetic engineering: genes and proteins on demand.
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QH506 .E246 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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During the past four decades, molecular biology has dominated the life sciences. Curiously, no participant in this scientific revolution has previously attempted a book-length history of the development of this powerful science. Harrison ("Hatch") Echols provides such an account in Operators and Promoters. A gifted molecular biologist and talented raconteur, Echols relates the intellectual history of the most influential discoveries in molecular biology from his own experiences.

Echols joins his vast knowledge of biology with personal interviews of the principal operators and promoters in the field to convey a captivating side of science--specifically, how the personalities of scientists and their competitive and collaborative relations affect new ideas and discoveries. The author reveals how logic and order often arise only in hindsight from the chaos of discovery; eventual solutions often come from experiments performed for entirely different reasons. Echols also shares his deep-seated feelings for the science itself, communicating his admiration, even awe, for the purity and simplicity with which life systems are organized. This gripping insider's account of the first fifty years of molecular biology ties together the biological questions with the scientific solutions of the people who established the field. It will appeal not only to students and those interested in the development of the discipline, but to anyone intrigued by the human side of science and the process of scientific inquiry and discovery.

Author Notes

Until his death in 1992, Harrison Echols was a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California, Berkeley
Carol A. Gross, his spouse, is a Professor in the Departments of Microbiology and Immunology and Stomatology at the University of California, San Francisco

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Many books have been written about the history of modern genetics, most by science historians or philosophers reporting significant events as spectators. Echols (now deceased) spent time in laboratories where many of the cornerstone genetics findings took place. He recounts the excitement and rationale through the eyes of the researchers making the discoveries. This comprehensive chronology of events leading to modern genetics details the motivations of the researchers conducting the experiments and examines the formalistic climate driving the overall direction of research. It is all presented with consideration for the social fabric and public concerns of the era in which each major episode developed. Echols goes beyond what most nontechnical writers provide in an account by including the full array of esoteric terminology and detailed protocols, in order to avoid introducing any inaccuracy in reporting the events. The book begins with sketches of the early studies on protein chemistry that led to the famous pursuit of deciphering DNA structure and function, and progresses to the outgrowth of biotechnology and medical genetics. Unfortunately, Echols fails to give much discussion to agricultural and industrial genetics advances, which currently surpass clinical and medical biotechnology applications. Great reading for anyone who wants an accurate depiction of the history of genetics. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through professionals. B. R. Shmaefsky Kingwood College

Table of Contents

Arthur KornbergTom Cech
Forewordp. xiii
Prefacep. xv
1 Beginnings: Simplicity and Elegance, DNA and Proteinp. 1
Proteinsp. 2
DNAp. 6
Simple Organismsp. 8
Further Readingp. 10
2 The Code for Life: DNA to Proteinp. 11
Genes Code for Proteinsp. 11
Defining the Coding Problem: The Information Peoplep. 15
DNA to RNA to Protein: The Biochemical Pathway Peoplep. 21
Cracking the Code: Synthetic mRNAp. 26
The Genetic Code: God Has an Orderly Mindp. 32
Further Readingp. 34
3 Turning Genes on and Off: Genes That Control Other Genesp. 35
Bacterial Growth and the Induced Synthesis of [beta]--galactosidase: The Monod Groupp. 36
The Problem of Lysogeny and Phage [lambda]: The Jacob Groupp. 40
Bacterial Sex and Erotic Inductionp. 45
Turning Off Related Genes: The Road to the Repressor and the Operonp. 49
The Discovery of Messenger RNAp. 56
What Is the Repressor?p. 59
Some Comments on the Road to the Operonp. 59
Positive and Negative Regulation: Two Ways to Run an Operonp. 60
Multi-Operon Regulation: The Glucose Effectp. 62
Regulatory Diversity: Review and Previewp. 63
Further Readingp. 64
4 Replicating the Genomep. 65
DNA Polymerase Replicates DNAp. 65
The Problems of Replicating a Genomep. 69
The Genetics of Replicationp. 74
The Fine Structure of DNA Replicationp. 77
The "Real" Replication Enzyme Is Just Like Pol Ip. 81
A Simple Task That Needs Many Proteins: Priming and Elongatingp. 82
Special Proteins Needed for Genome Replication: Stretching, Unwinding, Untwistingp. 89
Replicating Duplex DNAp. 92
Starting Genome Replication: A Special Structurep. 96
Further Readingp. 101
5 Making RNA from DNAp. 102
The Flow of Biological Informationp. 102
The Transcription Enzyme: RNA Polymerasep. 103
The Properties of mRNAp. 105
Developmental Pathways of Phagep. 108
Lambdology: The Developmental Biology of a Fieldp. 110
Lambdology: The Developmental Biology of a Phagep. 113
Lambdology as a Communityp. 117
The Lac and [lambda] Repressors Bind to Operator DNAp. 120
The Biochemistry of RNA Polymerasep. 126
Positive and Negative Regulators of the lac Operonp. 129
The General View of Regulatory Proteins: 1972p. 131
The Idea of Antitermination Regulation: Problems in Paradisep. 132
Regulated Termination in the trp Operon: The Attenuatorp. 136
Transcription Termination and How to Avoid It: [lambda] N and Q Proteinsp. 142
The Regulator-Operator Interaction: How to Locate a Site on DNAp. 146
A New Approach to DNA Sequence and Its Recognition: Single-Cleavage Analysisp. 148
Determining DNA Sequence by DNA Replicationp. 153
The Molecular Study of Protein-DNA Interactionsp. 155
Building a Regulatory Protein: A DNA-Binding Motifp. 158
The Regulator-Polymerase Interaction: General Rules?p. 162
Further Readingp. 165
6 The RNA World: New Proteins and Revised RNAsp. 166
The Anticodon: Base-Pairs Can Wobblep. 167
Base Sequence of tRNA: A Three-Leaf Clover for Holleyp. 168
Message Decoding: Methods and Protagonistsp. 171
The Problem of Starting a Proteinp. 172
Ending a Protein: The Value of Nonsensep. 175
Protein Translation Factors: Turning the Gears in Protein Synthesisp. 178
Using the Ribosome: GTP and Translocationp. 182
The Ribosome: The Many Faces of an Enigmap. 189
RNA Slicing in Bacteriap. 199
RNA Splicing in Eukaryotesp. 203
The Biochemistry of Splicing: Lariats on a Spliceosomep. 211
RNA Processing Without Proteins: Catalytic RNAp. 215
Further Readingp. 219
7 DNA on Its Own: Genetic Recombinationp. 220
General Recombination and the Holliday Modelp. 221
Holliday Intermediates in Cellsp. 225
Genes and Enzymes in Bacterial Recombinationp. 226
The RecA Protein and Branch Migrationp. 228
The RecBCD Protein: Unwinding and Nickingp. 230
General Recombinational Pathways: The Futurep. 231
Site-Specific Recombination and the Campbell Modelp. 233
Prophage Excision and Excisive Recombinationp. 237
The Biochemistry of Site-Specific Recombinationp. 239
DNA-Protein Interactions in Site-Specific Recombinationp. 242
Other Site-Specific Recombinasesp. 245
Transposition and Replicative Site-Specific Recombinationp. 247
The IS Insertion Elementsp. 249
Mu: A Phage That Does Not Integrate Like Lambdap. 251
Identifying the Mu Components Needed for Transpositionp. 254
A Unifying Model for Transpositionp. 256
Transposition: Why Have It?p. 258
Further Readingp. 260
8 Regulating the Regulators: Developmental and Salvational Decisionsp. 261
The Lysis-Lysogeny Decision by Phage [lambda]: cII as the Master Regulatorp. 262
Regulating the Regulator: Control of cII Activityp. 266
Molecular Decision Making: Primary and Secondary Switchesp. 268
Lifestyle Crises and Salvational Decisionsp. 273
The Heat Shock Response and Molecular Chaperonesp. 273
Heat Shock: From Cell Biology to Molecular Biologyp. 274
Regulation and Function of Heat Shock Proteins in E. colip. 275
Regulation of the Heat Shock Response: New Promoter Recognition by RNA Polymerasep. 277
Regulation of the Regulator: Post-Transcriptional Control of [sigma superscript 32]p. 279
The Heat Shock Response in Eukaryotic Cellsp. 280
Regulated DNA Repair and Mutagenesisp. 282
The UVR Pathway of Excision Repairp. 283
RecA-Mediated Recombinational Repairp. 284
The SOS Response to DNA Damagep. 286
The Biochemistry of SOS Regulation: Induction by Repressor Cleavagep. 290
Induced Mutation in the SOS Responsep. 293
Further Readingp. 295
9 Making DNA from RNA: The Strange Life of the Retrovirusp. 296
Quantitative Animal Virology: The Plaque and Focus Assaysp. 297
Making DNA from RNAp. 300
The Path from Virus to Provirus and Back Againp. 301
The Wild Ride of Reverse Transcriptasep. 306
The Retrovirus and Its Cancer Genep. 308
Retroviruses as Transposonsp. 312
The HIV Retrovirusp. 314
Further Readingp. 317
10 Genetic Engineering: Genes and Proteins on Demandp. 318
The Social Context for Basic Research in Biologyp. 318
A Biological Revolution from the Unpredictablep. 319
Hitchhiking Genes and Multiplying Vectorsp. 319
Biological Roots: Phage with Bacterial Genes and Cohesive Sitesp. 321
Biological Roots: Restriction Enzymes for Pieces of DNAp. 327
The Engineered Joining of DNA Moleculesp. 333
DNA Cloning: Amplification of Foreign DNA by a Plasmid Vectorp. 338
Safety Concerns and Regulatory Policyp. 340
Genetic Engineering: A Giant Leap for Eukaryotic Molecular Biologyp. 344
The Industrial and Medical Ramifications of Genetic Engineeringp. 347
Further Readingp. 349
Afterwordp. 350
Timelinep. 352
Glossaryp. 359
Notesp. 379
Name Indexp. 453
Subject Indexp. 458