Density matters: The semiconservative replication of DNA


National Academy of Sciences


The semiconservative mode of DNA replication was originally documented through the classic density labeling experiments of Matthew Meselson and Franklin W. Stahl, as communicated to PNAS by Max Delbrück in May 1958. The ultimate value of their novel approach has extended far beyond the initial implications from that elegant study, through more than four decades of research on DNA replication, recombination, and repair. I provide here a short historical commentary and then an account of some developments in the field of DNA replication, which closely followed the Meselson–Stahl experiment. These developments include the application of density labeling to discover the repair replication of damaged DNA, a “nonconservative” mode of synthesis in which faulty sections of DNA are replaced.

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