EVOLUTION: The End of Molecular Biology?

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Science  30 Jul 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5684, pp. 577a
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5684.577a

During the past five decades, beginning with the structure of DNA and ending with the sequence of the human genome, understanding biology has signified, for many, understanding the structures and functions of molecules. Woese looks back at the past half-century, and even further, in order to look ahead to a revisionist biology that strives to understand the evolutionary emergence of complexity. In some quarters, of course, the notion that multivalent and nonlinear interactions guide how organisms function and evolve has already begun to convert molecular prospectors into systems analysts. Copious quantities of genomic data are revitalizing old debates about the division, if there is a single one, between eucaryote and prokaryote, and about how thoroughly horizontal gene transfer might have muddied what we see around us today, even in as basic a process as translation of the genetic code. Might there have been, in a pre-Darwinian era, thriving cellular communities with a bustling marketplace where molecules and genes were freely traded, and, if so, how did bacteria, archaea, and everything else arise? These are some of Woese's questions for the new biologists. — GJC

Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. 68, 173 (2004).

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