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Nucleases: Historical Perspectives

M. Laskowski, Sr.


There are fairly rigid boundaries on which I should not trespass, and they are given by the program of this meeting. Repair, recombination, replication, and particularly restriction are the essence of this meeting, and so to avoid repetitions they are off limits for my introduction. Only passing references will be made to these topics to show their roots. The exception to this rule is single-strand-specific nucleases. In the past 10 years, they have been our major occupation and cannot be totally eliminated from the Introduction. I apologize to Dr. Ando for encroachment upon his territory.

To avoid sounding like a telephone book, a decision was made arbitrarily to abandon accurate chronology and, instead, to discuss periods of development through which the reviewer has lived. These are:period of discovery,

period of crystal chasing that evolved into a search for an ever-increasing purity (no end),

period of classification (fades away),

period of structural studies (primary and three dimensional) aimed at understanding the mechanism of enzyme action,

period of specificity (restriction),

period of fitting a nuclease into a general physiological function.

The last two periods are now in full bloom and constitute the essence of the present meeting.

Another arbitrary decision was made to refer to the reviews, whenever possible, starting with a charming little booklet by the late Prof. J.N. Davidson (Davidson 1950) that had a chapter on nucleases. This was followed by several reviews (Laskowski 1951, 1971; Schmidt...

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