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Split Genes / Splicing and 1993 Nobel Prize


The 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to the discovery of Split Genes, which led to the prediction of Splicing.


Nobel Prize Summary:


Our knowledge regarding the genetic material, the genes, has increased dramatically during the last forty years due to achievements in the area of molecular biology. During the first decades, studies on simple organisms, in particular bacteria and bacterial viruses, dominated. A gene was conceived as a continuous segment within the very long double-stranded DNA molecules, the chemical substance of heredity. This simple picture of gene structure completely changed when Richard J. Roberts and Phillip A. Sharp in 1977 independently discovered that genes could be discontinuous, that is, a given gene could be present in the genetic material (DNA) as several, well-separated segments. As their experimental model system, both Roberts and Sharp used a common cold-causing virus, called adenovirus, whose genes display important similarities to those in higher organisms. Shortly thereafter it could be shown by several researchers that split genes are frequent in higher organisms, including man.

Roberts’ and Sharp’s discovery has changed our view on how genes in higher organisms develop during evolution. The discovery also led to the prediction of a new genetic process, namely that of splicing, which is essential for expressing the genetic information. The discovery of split genes has been of fundamental importance for today’s basic research in biology, as well as for more medically oriented research concerning the development of cancer and other diseases.

In higher organisms such as human, pre-mRNA must be "cleaned" before translating into protein. The cleaning process includes (1) the cut-out of the irrelevant mRNA (or junk segment or intron) and (2) reconnect the useful genetic information, which is called mRNA splicing.


References:

1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

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