Timeline of the history of genetics

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This is a timeline of events concerning the Modern Evolution of Genetics, from Gregor Mendel to present day.

19th century[edit]

  • 1871 - J. F. Miescher isolated cell nuclei. Miescher separated the nucleic cells from bandages and then treated them with pepsin (an enzyme which breaks down proteins). From this, he recovered an acidic substance which he called “nuclein.”[1]
  • 1889 - Richard Altmann purified protein free DNA. However, the nucleic acid was not as pure as he had assumed. It was determined later to contain a large amount of protein.


  • 1902 - Archibald Garrod discovered inborn errors of metabolism. An explanation for epistasis is an important manifestation of Garrod’s research, albeit indirectly. When Garrod studied alkaptonuria, a disorder that makes urine quickly turn black due to the presence of gentesate, he noticed that it was prevalent among populations whose parents were closely related.[2][3][4]
  • 1904 - Walter Sutton and Theodor Boveri established the chromosome theory with their research which were done independent of each other and published in the years of 1902 to 1904. Boveri was studying sea urchins when he found that all the chromosomes in the sea urchins had to be present for proper embryonic development to take place. Sutton's work with grasshoppers showed that chromosomes occur in matched pairs of maternal and paternal chromosomes which separate during meiosis.[5] He concluded that this could be "the physical basis of the Mendelian law of heredity."[6]
  • 1908 - G.H. Hardy and Wilhelm Weinberg proposed the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium model which describes the frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population, which are under certain specific conditions, as constant and at a state of equilibrium from generation to generation unless specific disturbing influences are introduced.


  • 1910 - Thomas Morgan determined the nature of sex-linked traits by studying Drosophila melanogaster. He determined that the white-eyed mutant was sex-linked based on Mendelian's principles of segregation and independent assortment.[7] More significantly, Morgan and his students affirmed the Chromosome Theory of Heredity.
  • 1911 - Alfred Sturtevant, one of Morgan's students, invented the procedure of linkage mapping which is based on the frequency of recombination.[8] A few years later, he constructed the world's first chromosome map.[9]





  • 1955 - Joe Hin Tjio determined the number of chromosomes in humans to be of 46. Tjio was attempting to refine an established technique to separate chromosomes onto glass slides by conducting a study of human embryonic lung tissue, when he saw that there were 46 chromosomes rather than 48. This revolutionized the world of cytogenetics.


  • 1961 - Francis Crick and Sydney Brenner discovered frame shift mutations. In the experiment, proflavin-induced mutations of the T4 bacteriophage gene (rIIB) were isolated. Proflavin causes mutations by inserting itself between DNA bases, typically resulting in insertion or deletion of a single base pair. The mutants could not produce functional rIIB protein.[20]


  • 1970 - Hamilton O. Smith and Daniel Nathans purified the first restriction enzyme (EcoRI). This enzyme is produced by the E-coli strain RY13 and its purpose is to protect the bacteria’s genetic material from invasion by foreign DNA.[22]


  • 1980 - Paul Berg, Walter Gilbert and Frederick Sanger developed methods of mapping the structure of DNA. In 1972, recombinant DNA molecules were produced in Paul Berg’s Stanford University laboratory. Berg was awarded the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for constructing recombinant DNA molecules that contained phage lambda genes inserted into the small circular DNA mol.[27]
  • 1980 - Stanley Norman Cohen and Herbert Boyer received first U.S. patent for gene cloning, by proving the successful outcome of cloning a plasmid and expressing a foreign gene in bacteria to produce a “protein foreign to a unicellular organism." These two scientist were able to replicate proteins such as HGH, Erythropoietin and Insulin. The patent earned about $300 million in licensing royalties for Stanford.[28]
  • 1983 - Barbara McClintock was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discovery of mobile genetic elements. McClintock studied transposon-mediated mutation and chromosome breakage in maize and published her first report in 1948 on transposable elements or transposons. She found that transposons were widely observed in corn however her ideas weren't widely granted attention until the 1960s and 1970s when the same phenomenon was discovered in bacteria and Drosophila melanogaster.[30]
  • 1983 - Kary Mullis of the Cetus Corporation drafted a technique for amplifying DNA through a cloning procedure that became known as polymerase chain reaction.[31] Heat applied to the DNA segment causes it to separate, allowing the DNA polymerase to bind with the single strand of DNA. Taq polymerase (heat activated polymerase that synthesizes DNA, isolated from Thermophilus aquaticus) is necessary for polymerase chain reaction to work, because other polymerase proteins would denature in such physiological conditions. In the presence of an excess of mononucleotides, the polymerase will replicate the DNA and the process can be repeated a number of times, yielding an exponential growth of the number of DNA strands.
  • 1985 - Alec Jeffreys announced DNA fingerprinting method. Jeffreys was studying DNA variation and the evolution of gene families in order to understand disease causing genes.[32] In an attempt to develop a process to isolate many mini-satellites at once using chemical probes, Jeffreys took x-ray films of the DNA for examination and noticed that mini-satellite regions differ greatly from one person to another. In a DNA fingerprinting technique, a DNA sample is digested by treatment with specific nucleases or Restriction endonuclease and then the fragments are separated by electrophoresis producing a template distinct to each individual banding pattern of the gel.[33]
  • 1986 - Jeremy Nathans found genes for color vision and color blindness, working with David Hogness, Douglas Vollrath and Ron Davis as they were studying the complexity of the retina.[34]
  • 1989 - Thomas Cech discovered that RNA can catalyze chemical reactions,[35] making for one of the most important breakthroughs in molecular genetics, because it elucidates the true function of poorly understood segments of DNA.


  • 1994 - The first breast cancer gene is discovered. BRCA I, was discovered by researchers at the King laboratory at UC Berkeley in 1990 but was first cloned in 1994). BRCA II, the second key gene in the manifestation of breast cancer was discovered later in 1994 by Professor Michael Stratton and Dr. Richard Wooster.
  • 1996 - Alexander Rich discovered the Z-DNA, a type of DNA which is in a transient state, that is in some cases associated with DNA transcription.[37] The Z-DNA form is more likely to occur in regions of DNA rich in cytosine and guanine with high salt concentrations.[38]


  • 2003 - The Human Genome Project is officially completed after being funded by Congress in 1988. Within the limits of today's technology, the human genome is as complete as it can be. Small gaps that are unrecoverable in any current sequencing method remain, accounting for about 1 percent of the gene-containing portion of the genome, or euchromatin. New technologies will have to be invented to obtain the sequence of these regions.[40]
  • 2007 - Michael Worobey traced the evolutionary origins of HIV by analyzing its genetic mutations, which revealed that HIV infections had occurred in the United States as early as the 1960s.
  • 2008 - Houston-based Introgen developed Advexin (FDA Approval pending), the first gene therapy for cancer and Li-Fraumeni syndrome, utilizing a form of Adenovirus to carry a replacement gene coding for the p53 protein.


  1. ^ Principles of Genetics / D. Peter Snustad, Michael J. Simmons – 5th Ed. pp.210
  2. ^ Principles of Biochemistry / Nelson and Cox – 2005. pp.681
  3. ^ Principles of Genetics / D. Peter Snustad, Michael J. Simmons – 5th Ed. pp.383-384
  4. ^ Cell and Molecular Biology, Concepts and experiments / Gerald Karp –5th Ed (2008). pp. 430-431
  5. ^ O'Connor, C. & Miko, I. (2008) Developing the chromosome theory. Nature Education [1]
  6. ^ Sutton, W. S. (1902) On the morphology of the chromosome group in Brachystola magna. Biological Bulletin. 4:24-3, pp. 39 [2]
  7. ^ Principles of Genetics / D. Peter Snustad, Michael J. Simmons – 5th Ed. p.99
  8. ^ Principles of Genetics / D. Peter Snustad, Michael J. Simmons – 5th Ed. pp.147
  9. ^ Principles of Genetics / D. Peter Snustad, Michael J. Simmons – 5th Ed. pp.109
  10. ^ Principles of Genetics / D. Peter Snustad, Michael J. Simmons – 5th Ed. pp.190
  11. ^ Principles of Genetics / D. Peter Snustad, Michael J. Simmons – 5th Ed. pp. 212-213
  12. ^ Avery, O. T., MacLeod, C. M., McCarty, M. (1944) Studies on the Chemical Nature of the Substance Inducing Transformation of Pneumococal Types. Journal of Experimental Medicine. 79(2):137-156 [3]
  13. ^ Principles of Genetics / D. Peter Snustad, Michael J. Simmons – 5th Ed. pp.217 Table 9.1
  14. ^ Tamm, C., Herman, T., Shapiro, S., Lipschitz, R., Chargaff, E. (1953) Distribution Density of Nucleotides within a Desoxyribonucleic Acid Chain. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 203(2):673-688 [4]
  15. ^ NATURE- Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids / J.D. Watson, F.H.C. Crick Vol. 171(4356):737-738 (1953) [5]
  16. ^ Chemical Structure of the Nucleic Acids / Alexander R. Todd, 748-755,Vol. 40 (1954)[6]
  17. ^ Cell and Molecular Biology, Concepts and experiments / Gerald Karp –5th Ed (2008) pp. 548
  18. ^ Principles of Genetics / D. Peter Snustad, Michael J. Simmons – 5th Ed. (Discovery of DNA polymerase I in E. Coli) pp.255
  19. ^ Cell and Molecular Biology, Concepts and experiments / Gerald Karp –5th Ed (2008) pp. 467-469
  20. ^ Crick FH, Barnett L, Brenner S, Watts-Tobin RJ (December 1961). "General nature of the genetic code for proteins". Nature 192: 1227–32.[7]
  21. ^ Molecular Station: Structure of protein coding mRNA (2007)
  22. ^ Principles of Genetics / D. Peter Snustad, Michael J. Simmons – 5th Ed. (Discovery of DNA polymerase I in E. Coli) pp.420
  23. ^ Genetics and Genomics Timeline: The discovery of messenger RNA (mRNA) by Sydney Brenner, Francis Crick, Francois Jacob and Jacques Monod [8]
  24. ^ Genetics, The hisB463 Mutation and Expression of a Eukaryotic Protein in Escherichia coli Vol. 180, 709-714, October 2008 [9]
  25. ^ DNA Sequencing with Chain-Terminating Inhibitors / F. SANGER, S. NICKLEN, AND A. R. COULSON (1977)[10]
  26. ^ Principles of Biochemistry / Nelson and Cox – 2005. pp.296-298
  27. ^ Cell and Molecular Biology, Concepts and experiments / Gerald Karp –5th Ed (2008). pp. 976 - 977
  28. ^ Patents 4 Life: Bertram Rowland 1930–2010. Biotech Patent Pioneer Dies (2010) [11]
  29. ^ Funding Universe: Genentech, Inc
  30. ^ The Significance of Responses of the Genome to Challenge / Barbara McClintock – Science New Series, Vol. 226, No. 4676 (1984), pp. 792-801 [http:%2/uhd.summon.serialssolutions.com/search?s.q=responses+of+the+genome+to+challenge&t.AuthorCombined=McClintock+Barbara&s.rf=PublicationDate%2C1984%3A*]
  31. ^ Cell and Molecular Biology, Concepts and experiments / Gerald Karp –5th Ed (2008). Pp. 763
  32. ^ Lemelson MIT Program—Inventor of the week: Alec Jeffreys – DNA FINGERPRINTING (2005) [12]
  33. ^ A. J. JEFFREYS*, V. WILSON* & S. L. THEIN / Letters to NATURE: Nature 316, 76 - 79 (1985) [13]
  34. ^ Wikidoc: Color Blindness – Inheritance pattern of Color Blindness (2010) [14]
  35. ^ Cell and Molecular Biology, Concepts and experiments / Gerald Karp –5th Ed (2008) pp. 478
  36. ^ A Century of Nobel Prize Recipients / Francis Leroy - 2003. pp 345
  37. ^ NATURES / Perspectives: Z-DNA, The long road to biological function--Alexander Rich and Shuguang Zhang; Vol 4 (2003) [15]
  38. ^ The Journal of Biological Chemistry,284, e23-e25
  39. ^ CNN Interactive: A sheep cloning how-to, more or less(1997) http://www.cnn.com/TECH/9702/24/cloning.explainer/index.html
  40. ^ National Human Genome Research Institute / The Human Genome Project Completion: FAQs (2010) [16]

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