Interviewee: Marshall Nirenberg.
After decoding the "easy" codons, Marshall Nirenberg talks about his strategy for decoding the rest.
(DNAi Location: Code > Reading the code > Players > Marshall Nirenberg & collaborators > The other codons)
I asked myself the question, what's the smallest word that would be functional, that would be recognized. And I thought that maybe a triplet, three bases alone might be recognized on ribosomes by the appropriate species of transfer RNA with the appropriate amino acid attached to it. And we, I tried this and the very first experiment worked, and so we used a very simple, a different kind of assay, a very simple assay to determine the base sequences of codons by measuring the binding of radioactive, radioactive amino acid attached to transfer RNA, to recognized on, bound to ribosomes and recognized a triplet, three bases. And we could separate the complex from the unbound aminoacetyl tRNA by absorption on filters. A very simple assay, it worked.
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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.
Marshall Nirenberg, Har Gobind Khorana, and Robert Holley shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. Nirenberg and Khorana cracked the genetic code. Holley sequenced and deduced the structure of the first tRNA molecule.