Phage Reading


In the following links, I recommend that you use internet explorer or adobe reader to "Find" the word "Phage."  This exercise makes for quick reading and fast learning. 

The Noble Lectures

This is an outstanding noble prize lecture by Joshua Lederberg, and the speech illuminates the early history of phage research and what this research did for our understanding of genetics.  Central phage biology concepts are included here, such as transduction, lysis, temperate phage, prophage, and lytic cycle.

The above is a noble prize lecture speech by Edward Tatum, (the prize was shared with Lederberg and Wells Beadle).  It only concerns phage slightly, but is an interesting read that gives credit to who was working with bacteriophage early on.

This noble lecture indicates the significance of Hershey's experimentation with phage, the concept of genetic material and viruses, in addition to explaining the phage lifecycle with dramatic flair.

This lecture discusses how phage were important in the discovery of RNA as the messenger of genetic information. 

" Although the concept that RNA is a template for protein was well established, direct biochemical evidence was lacking. However, Hershey’s finding that a fraction of RNA is rapidly synthesized and then degraded in E. coli infected with T2 bacteriophage, and the demonstration by Volkin and Astrachan that the composition of this RNA fraction resembles phage DNA rather than E. coli DNA were exciting, because the data suggested that the unstable RNA fraction might function as templates for the synthesis of phage protein."  (page 373). 

Phage were also important in the discovery of nonsense codons.

Salvador E. Luria's noble lecture introduces his experimental relationship with Hershey, and describes in part the lifecycle of viruses.  Luria claims that phage have allowed for the development of "modern molecular biology," and discusses the formation of the operon theory by Andre Lwoff and François Jacob (see Lwoff lecture, above).  The lecture discusses the particulars of phage infection with respect to DNA/RNA changes and protein synthesis, for example.

Hershey (notice that he was frequently referenced in the above noble lectures) was given credit for much of our understanding of the structure of DNA.  His infamous sedimentation experiment is described, since Hershey (and Chase) performed one of perhaps the most elegant experiments in biology, that described DNA to be the genetic material. provides a good description of the Hershey and Chase experiment.

The 1978 noble prize was given for work on restriction enzymes, a central part of my phage biology curricula.  The Werner-Arber noble lecture discusses phage λ, and a moderate amount about restriction enzymes.  Phages were at the forefront of the study of these enzymes (which in turn, I use to study the phage in our curricula and experimentation).  Highly recommended reading.  The relevance of multiplicity of infection, for example, is described.

The 1978 Smith noble lecture includes very well placed and relevant points regarding the discovery of restriction enzymes, and how growing phage on different bacteria allowed them to be protected from restriction digestion.  This also taught us much about host modification of DNA.   


Additional Readings:

Arrowsmith, by Sinclaire Lewis.  This novel was given to me by my M.S. thesis advisor, Dr. Barry Bloom, before he departed Albert Einstein College of Medicine to become the dean of the Harvard School of public health.  Barry graduated from Rockefeller, the setting of the book.  The scientific panacea and dilemma of the book concerns the discovery of a bacteriophage.

All the world is a phage.    This Science News article references the phage finding that Dr. Jacobs and collaborators have been doing with high school students, and why this research is fascinating.