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Domain 1:

Historical Perspectives

The Legacy of 20th Century Phage Research

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  • Author: Allan M. Campbell1
  • Editor: James B. Kaper2
  • VIEW AFFILIATIONS HIDE AFFILIATIONS
    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford CA 94305; 2: University of Maryland, School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
  • Received 15 February 2010 Accepted 15 April 2010 Published 08 October 2010
  • Address correspondence to Allan M. Campbell amc@stanford.edu
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  • Abstract:

    The Golden Age of Phage Research, where phage was the favored material for attacking many basic questions in molecular biology, lasted from about 1940 to 1970. The era was initiated by Ellis and Delbrück, whose analysis defined the relevant parameters to measure in studying phage growth, and depended on the fact that the contents of a plaque can comprise descendants of a single infecting particle. It ended around 1970 because definitive methods had then become available for answering the same questions in other systems. Some of the accomplishments of phage research were the demonstration by Hershey and Chase that the genetic material of phage T2 is largely composed of DNA, the construction of linkage maps of T2 and T4 by Hershey and Rotman and their extension to very short molecular distances by Benzer, and the isolation of conditionally lethal mutants in T4 by Epstein et al. and in λ by Campbell. The dissection of the phage life cycle into causal chains was explored by Edgar and Wood for T4 assembly and later in the regulation of lysogeny by Kaiser, extended to the molecular level by Ptashne and others. Restriction/modification was discovered in λ by Bertani and Weigle, and the biochemical mechanism was elucidated by Arber and by Smith.

  • Citation: Campbell A. 2010. The Legacy of 20th Century Phage Research, EcoSal Plus 2010; doi:10.1128/ecosalplus.1.2

Key Concept Ranking

DNA Restriction Enzymes
0.40864313
RNA Polymerase
0.33600003
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References

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3. Campbell A. 2003. The future of bacteriophage biology. Nat Rev Genet 4:271–277.
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5. Doermann AH. 1952. The intracellular growth of bacteriophage. I. Liberation of intracellular bacteriophage T4 by premature lysis with another phage or with cyanide. J Gen Physiol 35:645–656. [PubMed]
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15. Mosig G. 1998. Recombination and recombination-dependent DNA replication in bacteriophage T4. Annu Rev Genet 32:397–413.
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2010-10-08
2017-03-29

Abstract:

The Golden Age of Phage Research, where phage was the favored material for attacking many basic questions in molecular biology, lasted from about 1940 to 1970. The era was initiated by Ellis and Delbrück, whose analysis defined the relevant parameters to measure in studying phage growth, and depended on the fact that the contents of a plaque can comprise descendants of a single infecting particle. It ended around 1970 because definitive methods had then become available for answering the same questions in other systems. Some of the accomplishments of phage research were the demonstration by Hershey and Chase that the genetic material of phage T2 is largely composed of DNA, the construction of linkage maps of T2 and T4 by Hershey and Rotman and their extension to very short molecular distances by Benzer, and the isolation of conditionally lethal mutants in T4 by Epstein et al. and in λ by Campbell. The dissection of the phage life cycle into causal chains was explored by Edgar and Wood for T4 assembly and later in the regulation of lysogeny by Kaiser, extended to the molecular level by Ptashne and others. Restriction/modification was discovered in λ by Bertani and Weigle, and the biochemical mechanism was elucidated by Arber and by Smith.

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