Writing inside the autobiography, the Nobel laureate Franзois Jacob described how the means of science was actually quite distinctive from the thing that was eventually written and published within the peer-reviewed literature. 1 He related how Sydney Brenner to his research and Matthew Meselsen initially had setbacks once they attempted to identify a hypothesized intermediary molecule that took information from genes and allowed protein to be synthesized inside cells. He and his colleagues attempted, without luck, to exhibit that the factor, which today we all know as mRNA, attached itself to ribosomes, the cell’s protein-manufacturing machinery. So one day, discouraged, Jacob said, he and Brenner took a rest and decided to go to a Pacific Ocean beach, where Brenner at some point exclaimed that magnesium was very important to binding.
As soon as the two returned to the laboratory, they added enough magnesium to their experiments and then showed the factor related to ribosomes. The mRNA would not attach to ribosomes without sufficient magnesium. The scientists had provided evidence for the existence of mRNA, which we currently know transcribes information from DNA into a language that ribosomes can understand. But the paper reporting the outcome, which appeared in Nature in 1961, had not been a narrative that is historical of happened. The scientific paper explained mRNA’s binding to ribosomes as a function associated with concentration of magnesium, without reference to the eureka moment at the beach.Continue reading