The chemical code for a nucleic acid has been determined for the first time. Cornell University scientists announced this historic step in the elucidation of the chemistry of life in March. The nucleic acid described is alanine-specific transfer ribonucleic acid (tRNA).
Alanine is one of three amino acids for which the investigators isolated and purified specific tRNA. Tyrosine and valine tRNA were also isolated—all from hundreds of pounds of bakers yeast, which yielded 1 gm of the alanine-specific nucleic acid.
The scientists were Robert W. Holley, PhD, Jean Apgar, PhD, George A. Everett, PhD, James T. Madison, PhD, Mark Marquisee, PhD, Susan H. Merrill, PhD, John Robert Penswick, PhD, and Ada Zamir, PhD. All are with the Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Laboratory, US Department of Agriculture and Department of Biochemistry at Cornell in Ithaca, NY.
In protein synthesis, the interaction of messenger and transfer RNAs at the ribosomes directs the