Methodology in Basic Genetics

By Walter J. Burdette | Go to book overview

David Nanney, Ph.D.


CYTOPLASMIC INHERITANCE in PROTOZOA

CYTOPLASMIC INHERITANCE IN THE BIOLOGICAL SCHEME OF THINGS

Several difficult problems must be confronted if the phenomena encompassed by the term "cytoplasmic inheritance" are to be evaluated fully. The phenomena must find a place not only within genetics but also within a wider biological context; the mechanisms involved must be elucidated and their rôles and distributions in biological systems must be considered. Most often in recent years cytoplasmic inheritance has been linked with developmental events, but the nature of this relationship has undergone progressive re-evaluation. Before attempting an exposition of the peculiarities of protozoan systems, some perspectives concerning the larger problems may be in order.

One of the most characteristic qualities of genetics is its ability to form metastases. This, combined with its phenomenal growth, accounts for its invasion into most of the domains of biology. It has progressively fused with or engulfed cytology, evolution, cellular physiology, and, finally, during the past decade, macromolecular chemistry. Perhaps never before in so short a time have so many long-standing and fundamental issues been resolved. What is the nature of the genetic material? In what way is the genetic material replicated? By what means does the genetic material exert its effects on cellular phenotypes? We now have every reason to believe that the primary genetic material consists of nucleic acids, generally DNA, and that it carries genetic information coded in a sequence of nucleotides. It replicates by a semiconservative process whereby each half of the duplex molecule synthesizes its own complement. It achieves its specific effects by translating, usually through an RNA intermediary, its coded message into amino-acid sequences in proteins. These catalytic agents are then responsible more or less directly for the diverse manifestations of life.

One may object, of course, that all these conclusions are not firmly established,

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