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1 Transcriptional Regulation: Elegance in Design and Discovery

Charles Yanofsky


If at each step each enzyme carried out its job perfectly, the sum of their activities could only be chaos were they not somehow interlocked so as to form a coherent system. We do indeed have the most manifest evidence of the efficiency of the chemical machinery of living beings, from the “simplest” to the most complex.

Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity

The modern era of regulatory biology began in the 1940s with Jacques Monod’s analysis of the phenomenon of diauxie in the bacterium Escherichia coli. Subsequently, Monod, in magnificent studies performed with the help of many talented investigators, most notably his principal collaborator François Jacob, provided a conceptual framework for regulatory studies that defined many of the fundamental issues of gene regulation and influenced all subsequent thought and research in this area. In this chapter, I describe some of the pioneering discoveries that led Jacob and Monod to formulate their model of repression and induction. Then, as an introduction to succeeding chapters, I briefly mention some recent developments in studies on transcriptional regulation in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Current knowledge of the regulatory mechanisms used by the two groups of organisms suggests that they have common features, but there appear to be some basic differences in regulatory strategies; possible explanations are discussed. In toto, the chapters in this monograph provide a comprehensive view of transcriptional regulation and document its importance to the essential activities of all living organisms. I believe the articles in this volume justify the assertion that...

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