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Genetics. 2010 Aug;185(4):1135-9. doi: 10.1534/genetics.110.120469.

Mutagenesis as a genetic research strategy.

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Department of Genetics and Program for History and Philosophy of Science, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 91904 Jerusalem, Israel.


Morgan's three students (Muller, Sturtevant, and Bridges) introduced reductionist empirical methods to the study of the chromosomal theory of heredity. Herman J. Muller concentrated on mutations, namely changes in the heterocatalytic properties of genes, without losing their autocatalytic (self-replication) properties. Experimental induction of mutations allowed quantitative analyses of genes' parameters, but hopes to deduce their chemicophysical character were never fulfilled. Once the model for DNA structure was proposed, the reductionist notions of mutation analysis were successfully applied to the molecular genes. However, it was soon realized that the concept of the particulate gene was inadequate. The more the molecular analysis of the genome advanced, the clearer it became that the entities of heredity must be conceived within systems' perspectives, for which special tools for handling large number of variables were developed. Analytic mutagenesis, however, continues to be a major strategy for the study of the cellular and chromosomal mechanisms that control mutation inductions.

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