Traversing the RNA worldAn invitation to write a “Reflections” type of article creates a certain ambivalence: it is a great honor, but it also infers the end of your professional career. Before you vanish for good, your colleagues look forward to an interesting but entertaining account of the ups-and-downs of your past research and your views on science in general, peppered with indiscrete anecdotes about your former competitors and collaborators. What follows will disappoint those who await complaint and criticism, for example, about the difficulties of doing research in the 1960s and 1970s in Eastern Europe, or those seeking very personal revelations.
Investigating Viruses during the Transformation of Molecular BiologyThis Reflections article describes my early work on viral enzymes and the discovery of mRNA capping, how my training in medicine and biochemistry merged as I evolved into a virologist, the development of viruses as vaccine vectors, and how scientific and technological developments during the 1970s and beyond set the stage for the interrogation of nearly every step in the reproductive cycle of vaccinia virus (VACV), a large DNA virus with about 200 genes. The reader may view this article as a work in progress, because I remain actively engaged in research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) notwithstanding 50 memorable years there.
Joys and Surprises of a Career Studying Eukaryotic Gene ExpressionIn this Reflections, I review a few early and very lucky events that gave me a running start for the rest of a long and wonderfully enjoyable career. For the main part, a discussion is provided of what I recall as the main illuminating results that my many dozens of students and postdoctoral fellows (approximately 140 in all) provided to our biochemical/molecular biological world.
Translational Control of Protein Synthesis: The Early YearsFor the past fifty-five years, much of my research has focused on the function and biogenesis of red blood cells, including the cloning and study of many membrane proteins such as glucose and anion transporters and the erythropoietin receptor. We have also elucidated the mechanisms of membrane insertion, folding, and maturation of many plasma membrane and secreted proteins. Despite all of this work and more, I remain extremely proud of our very early work on the regulation of mRNA translation: work on bacteriophage f2 RNA in the 1960s and on translation of α- and β-globin mRNAs in the early 1970s.