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J Mol Biol. 2011 May 27;409(1):7-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2011.02.027. Epub 2011 Feb 18.

The operon as paradigm: normal science and the beginning of biological complexity.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The papers from the Jacob and Monod groups that presented the operon model and repressor control of gene expression provided a paradigm that opened up the field of gene regulation. Following the set of papers published between 1958 and 1961, there ensued almost immediately a period of "normal science" as Thomas Kuhn has defined it. Most researchers applied the repressor model to their own systems. I suggest a number of factors that were responsible for the rapid acceptance of the Jacob-Monod model and inhibited suggestions for alternative mechanisms of regulation. Nevertheless, I argue that this adherence to the paradigm, including specifically control by repressors, may well have been necessary for the field to progress. Ultimately, the evolution of this field of study was to reveal the unexpected complexity to genetic regulation.

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