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Preface/Front Matter

Keith R. Yamamoto, Steven L. McKnight


Perhaps no area has been more profoundly transfigured by the technological revolution in molecular biology than has the effort to understand gene transcription and its regulation. This is not to say, of course, that transcriptional regulation was a cold void before recombinant libraries, PCR, and Southwesterns. Indeed, powerful molecular genetic strategies devised to study E. coli and its viruses produced concepts and paradigms that stand today as cornerstones for our notions of transcription in complex systems. Early studies in eukaryotes focused on biochemistry and produced, for example, the discovery of three discrete RNA polymerases, each functionally distinct. Arduous fractionations and painstaking reconstitutions yielded a glimpse of the complexity of the polymerases, crude fractions containing activities essential for initiation, and a few putative regulatory proteins. Early workers in the field contributed to and learned from the now-classic Cold Spring Harbor monographs, The Lactose Operon, The Bacteriophage Lambda, and RNA Polymerase. Remarkably, some two decades later, those volumes remain as valuable resources; some of the contributing authors are still pursuing transcription and several have authored chapters for this monograph.

Perusal of the chapters that follow (or even a scan of the “overviews” at the beginning of each chapter) will demonstrate clearly the manifold effects of DNA cloning and its attendant manipulations on studies of transcriptional regulation. The trickle of regulatory and initiation factors, polymerase subunits, and DNA sequence elements at which they act has grown to a torrent. The capacity to gather data, and the nature of questions and quality of answers,

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