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The Genetic Code--Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
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  • Genetic Code


The Genetic Code-Yesterday, Today? and Tomorrow F. H. C. CRICK Medical Research Council Laboratory of Jlolecztlar Bioiogy Cambridge, England This is an historic occasion. There have been many meetings about the genetic code during the past ten or twelve years but this is the first impor- tant one to be held since the code became known. When I came to the States early in 1965 I brought w&h me tentative allocations for many of the 64 triplets. based mainly on the early work of Leder and Nirenberg, the results from the random poly- mers and the mutagenesis data. I telephoned Marshall Nirenberg, who told me of his latest allocations. A little later I saw Gobind Khorana and heard the first results he was getting using polymers with repeating sequences. I also visited George Streisinger and was told about the pre- liminary amino acid sequences due to a phase shift in the phage lysozyme. From all this we were able to work out the meaning of several of the remaining doubtful triplets. By March 1965 t’he great majority of triplets had been unambiguously identified and just a few remained unallocated. It was a most exciting occasion for me, travelling about the country and seeing how the various lines of evi- dence fitted together. Leslie Orgel and I were also able to make a shrewd guess at several anticodons, and it was at about this time, too, that the idea of “wobble” was invented. I thought I would use the occasion of this intro- duction for some reminiscences about the past, some reflections on the present state of the code, and a few words about the future development of the subject. As we all know, the genetic code is a triplet code of the nonoverlapping type. It is highly degenerat,e, in a semi-systematic way, most of the 64 triplets standing for one amino acid or another. It is universal, or nearly so. Our present knowledge of it can be neatly summarized by the table given at the beginning of this volume (page 1). How did ideas abou

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