Who was the First to Isolate a Gene?
It was Garret Ihler in Charlie Thomasâ€™ lab at Harvard in 1968-69 before the advent of recombinant DNA. The paper, appropriately titled â€œIsolation of Pure lac Operon DNAâ€?, was published in Nature (vol. 224 pages 768-774) in 1969. This paper, certainly, was fresh in the minds of Nobel Prize winners, Dan Nathans and Hamilton Smith at Johns Hopkins, a few years later as they developed restriction enzymes to cut and paste defined DNA fragments (Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1978).
Ihlerâ€™s work started molecular biologists thinking of the benefits of molecular cloning of recombinant genes. Although lac is an E. coli (lactose) operon consisting of three structural genes (encoding the enzymes required for metabolism of lactose), lac is a single transcriptional unit with one gene promoter and two regulatory domains (for the repressor and operator). Ihlerâ€™s paper points out that purification of individual genes would permit investigation of their mechanisms of transcriptional control and expression. Read the rest of this entry »