Writing inside the autobiography, the Nobel laureate Franзois Jacob described how the process 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 if they tried to identify a hypothesized intermediary molecule that took information from genes and allowed protein to be synthesized inside cells. He along with his colleagues attempted, without luck, to show that the factor, which today we realize 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 went along to a Pacific Ocean beach, where Brenner at some point exclaimed that magnesium was very important to binding.
As soon as the two gone back 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 presence of mRNA, which we now know transcribes information from DNA into a language that ribosomes can understand. But the paper reporting the outcome, which appeared in general in 1961, had not been a historical narrative of what happened. The paper that is scientific mRNA’s binding to ribosomes as a function of the concentration of magnesium, without reference to the eureka moment in the beach. (más…)