Bruce Alberts on Experiments with DNA Replication
  Bruce Alberts     Biography    
Recorded: 22 Aug 2008

Well from my work with Paul Doty’s laboratory where they did a lot of work on melting DNA and looking in the spectrum-photometer at the change in absorption in ultraviolet when DNA melts. The so called hyperchromicity effect. Basically the absorption goes up when the strands come apart, so you could tell when the DNA is melting. And so I just looked at a spectrum-photometer, at the melting of this synthetic DNA molecule, and the absence and presence of 32 protein and found that it melted at a much lower temperature when the 32 protein was present. And then you know, it took…by that time I had a few graduate students and they went off to their own cold rooms. Each one got a different gene product. And the other sort of fantastic experiment that you never forget came in 1976. We had collected by that time all seven proteins, gene products that genetics….So eventually… The other experiment that is a Hershey’s Heaven experiment came in 1976 when through the work of lots of graduate students, each one working on a different gene product, we had collected all the known proteins that were needed to replicate T4 bacteriophage DNA inside the cell. And ah, previously we had never get any copying of DNA unless the DNA was single stranded. That’s what Kornberg had already done with the single enzyme, DNA polymerase. And so we kept on trying to make DNA on a double stranded template and failing. And finally in 1976 we had the, all the proteins, had the right magnesium concentration, and suddenly we were making DNA. All we had to do was add double strand DNA, we didn’t have to add single strand DNA. And so then we could look and see what was happening in an electron microscope. And in fact, we had reconstructed the replication for just these seven proteins. And so that was the goal I started on in 19… I guess it was 1960, ’61, as a graduate student, failing. So it’s always good to succeed after lots of failure. Somehow it means more than succeeding the first time.

Bruce Alberts, currently Editor-in-chief of Science, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysic at the University of California and United States Science Envoy. He received A.B. (1960) in Biochemical Science from Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts and Ph.D. (1965) from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1966 he joined Department of Chemistry at the Princeton University and after 10 years he became professor and vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysic at the UCSF.

Alberts work is best known for his work on the protein complexes that allow chromosomes to be replicated. He is one of the authors of The Molecular Biology of the Cell, a major textbook in the field. He served two-six years terms as a president of National Academy of Science (1993-2005). During his administration at NAS, he was involved in developing the landmark of National Science Education standards.

Among many honors and awards (16 honorary degrees), he is Co-chair of the InterAcademy Council and a trustee of Gordon and Betty Moore Fundation.

More Information: Wikipedia, UCSF