Proving it was phenylalanine, Marshall Nirenberg
Interviewee: Marshall Nirenberg. Having made phenylalanine using poly-U mRNA, Marshall Nirenberg still had to prove it. He talks about how he did this with help from a fellow scientist â€“ Michael Siler. (DNAi Location: Code > Reading the code > Players > Marshall Nirenberg > Proving it was phenylalanine)
And he just looked at me, first he asked why do you want to know, so I told him what we had found. And then he said, I don't know much, he says, but I can tell you two things: polyphenylalanine, he says, is extremely insoluble, it doesn't dissolve in many solutions, but it does dissolve in fifteen percent concentrated acetic acid dissolved in hydrobromic acid. You know, I looked at him in astonishment, because I'd never heard of a solvent like that. And he said I've just made up this reagent, he says, do you want some? And of course, you know, I took it with great gratitude, what I didn't know, and I didn't find out until about ten years later, was that he was the only person in the world who knew that polyphenylalanine was, would dissolve in that solvent, because he had made a mistake one time a few months earlier.
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Marshall Nirenberg talks about the RNA code for phenylalanine.
Marshall Nirenberg and Heinrich Matthaei used poly-U mRNA in a cell-free system to make a polyphenylalanine protein chain. This showed that UUU must be the code that specifies the amino acid phenylalanine.
Marshall Nirenberg talks about origin of the RNA code.
After decoding the "easy" codons, Marshall Nirenberg talks about his strategy for decoding the rest.
Marshall Nirenberg talks about Gobind Khorana, who synthesized many of the triplets needed to finish the decoding process.
George Gamow was a physicist who became interested in biology after reading Watson and Crick's 1953 paper on DNA structure. Marshall Nirenberg talks about Gamow's theories on the code.
Marshall Nirenberg talks about the contributions of Maxine Singer, Marianne Grunberg-Monago and Phil Leder.
Several researchers crack the genetic code.
Marshall Nirenberg talks about cell-free protein synthesis.
DNA has four "letters" that must specify the 20 different amino acids that make up proteins. Combinatorially, using three DNA letters for one amino acid makes the most sense.