Gamov's conclusion that three DNA bases link to one amino acid, Marshall Nirenberg
Interviewee: Marshall Nirenberg.
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.
(DNAi Location: Code > Reading the code > Players > Marshall Nirenberg > A possible code)
He told me that he went down to his driveway to the mailbox to pick up the mail, and picked up that issue of Nature that contained Watson and Crick's article on the helical nature of DNA. And he read it while he was standing at the mailbox with one arm on the mailbox, and immediately thought that three bases in DNA corresponded to one amino acid, there are four kinds of bases in DNA, twenty kinds of amino acids in protein. And so, taking them three at a time there are 64 possible combinations of the three bases.
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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.
Paul Zamecnik first developed the cell-free extract system, which Marshall Nirenberg adapted to decipher the genetic code. Paul Zamecnik and Mahlon Hoagland also isolated activated tRNA, the "adaptor" that shuttled amino acids to ribsomes for incorporati