With 2012 just in its early days and before the dawn of yet another term, a look back at the scientific journals of 2011 brings us articles from both the Journal of Molecular Biology (JMB) and Molecular Cell, respectively entitled The 50th Anniversary of the Publication of the Operon Theory in the Journal of Molecular Biology: Past, Present and Future and Integrated Gene Regulatory Circuits: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Operon Model. While Watson and Crick grace many of the historic photos of molecular biology for their discovery of the iconic double-helix that revolutionized much of the thinking in the field today, we must pay great tribute to Jacob and Monod for explaining what Watson and Crick did not and for giving a new regulatory dimension to our view of life at the genetic molecular level in what JMB touts as “still a masterpiece to read.”
The “operon” is familiar term for ardent biology and chemistry concentrators and an increasingly familiar term for physics and engineering students on the interdisciplinary platform that constitutes science today. Rudimentarily defined, the operon is a unit of genes with select genes regulating the other protein-coding genes in the unit. The lactose operon is the premier model for gene regulation and initial characterization in the enteric bacteria E. coli has led to characterizations of more sophisticated gene regulation in higher organisms. It might further issue personal excitement for researchers—not excluding the budding young scientists among us—in the varied fields of epigenetics, stem cells, and systems biology. Moreover, the conception of regulatory circuits inspired by the operon underscores the sheer complexity of living phenomena as nature’s remarkable, robust information processors. Thus, the 50th anniversary reminds us that with greater breakthroughs in science come even greater questions.
For a short animated overview of the operon:
To briefly read up on the findings of Jacob and Monod and the scientific impacts, check out:
Moshe Yaniv, The 50th Anniversary of the Publication of the Operon Theory in the Journal of Molecular Biology: Past, Present and Future, Journal of Molecular Biology, Volume 409, Issue 1, 27 May 2011, Pages 1-6, ISSN 0022-2836, 10.1016/j.jmb.2011.03.041.
Shahragim Tajbakhsh, Giacomo Cavalli, Evelyne Richet, Integrated Gene Regulatory Circuits: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Operon Model, Molecular Cell, Volume 43, Issue 4, 19 August 2011, Pages 505-514, ISSN 1097-2765, 10.1016/j.molcel.2011.08.003.