Plindenbaum, I haven't been active on Wikipedia for many months. Today (July 15th, 2008) is the first anniversary of my father's passing (Robert Metzenberg). I happened to search for his memorial page, written by some of his scientific colleagues, and I came upon this page, which you apparently started a few weeks ago. I was very touched. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to contribute directly to this page, but I am happy to answer questions about him and his research, although my brother would a better source. As his son, I am obviously too close to the subject. If you see a picture you like on his memorial page, I could scan one for the public domain. Metzenberg (talk) 03:23, 16 July 2008 (UTC)
Hi User:Metzenberg, thank you for your mail. When I've time to spare, I'm watching after the biographies in pubmed and I create the missing articles in wikipedia. I guess this article about your father has been recently released in ncbi/pubmed. Please, feel free to add any information/picture to complete this article. --Plindenbaum (talk) 12:28, 16 July 2008 (UTC)
Plindenbaum, I am going to recuse myself from editing directly on the page because I am his son. Instead, I will provide you with information here and let somebody else write and edit onto the page. First of all, I would recommend adding these sources:
Rowland H. Davis. Neurospora. Contributions of a Model Organism. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2000. ISBN 0-19-512236-4.
Rowland H. Davis. "Genetics of Neurospora". in Ulrich Kück (editor), The Mycota: A Comprehensive Treatise on Fungi as Experimental Systems for Basic and Applied Research. Springer. pp 6-20. ISBN-10 3540580034.
Rowland H. Davis. The Microbial Models of Molecular Biology. From Genes to Genomes. Oxford University Press, New York, 2003
Rowland Davis is professor emeritus at the University of California, Irvine. Since his retirement from teaching and research, Davis has written many books and articles on the history of genetics in the 20th century.
The first two sources contain references for my father's research on genetic regulation of metabolic pathways in eukaryotes. Neurospora crassa was one of a handful of model organisms that were selected and intensively studied by scientists in the middle 20th century as a key to understanding how all organisms work. In the 1950s-1970s, studies with Neurospora tended to focus on cellular reproduction, cellular architecture (ribosomes, etc.), and metabolic processes. Robert Metzenberg's research in the 1960s and 1970s focused on metabolic regulation of sulfates and phosphates. He was the first to provide experimental verification of positive and negative feedback loops in gene regulation in eukaryotes. In the process, he was one of first scientists who demonstrated that the eukaryotic cell has many post-transcription regulatory mechanisms outside of the classical transcriptional framework (DNA to RNA).
The final source ("Microbial Models") includes a brief discussion of the work that my father did in the late 1990s and 2000s, together with Rodolfo Aramayo and Patrick Shiu. In 1996 he discovered a post-transcriptional epigenetic mechanism which has come to be known as meiotic silencing of unpaired DNA, or simply meiotic silencing. Meiotic silencing, similar to transvection, is a genome defense mechanism whereby the cell silences the expression of unpaired DNA during cellular reproduction to prevent parasitic interference and intervention. Unpaired DNA is likely to be viral DNA.
In addition to feedback loops, post-transcription regulatory mechanisms, and meiotic silencing, he did a lot of other basic research on Neurospora crassa. In particular, he was responsible for a technique called restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) mapping, which he and his associates used to produce a gene map of Neurospora. This technique is still used, however it is being superseded by polymerase chain reaction techniques, and by direct sequencing of genomes, as the cost of sequencing continues to decline.
Almost all papers in the biological sciences in general and genetics in particular are conducted by teams, usually with a principal investigator who is responsible for obtaining funding, as well as providing overall management and direction. Some projects involve large numbers of long distance collaborators. As a scientist he worked under a single grant from the National Institute for Health, and he usually maintained a laboratory with 3-5 post-doctoral fellows, 1-2 graduate students, and a technician. I know that there was elaborate protocol that determined which names were included and in what order. It was always his practice to put his name last in the author list on papers in which he was the principal investigator.