Molecular Biology of the Gene

Benjamin Cummin
James D. Watson / Tania A. Baker / Stephen P. Bell / Alexander Gann / Michael Levine / Richard Losick  
Total pages
February 2013
Related Titles


Now completely up-to-date with the latest research advances, the Seventh Edition of James D. Watson’s classic book, Molecular Biology of the Gene retains the distinctive character of earlier editions that has made it the most widely used book in molecular biology. Twenty-two concise chapters, co-authored by six highly distinguished biologists, provide current, authoritative coverage of an exciting, fast-changing discipline.


  • Balanced coverage of prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems is included.
  • To support the concise narrative, additional material can be found in essay boxes that are labeled in four categories:
    • Key or Classic Experiments highlight influential experimental strategies that show students how we know what we know.
    • Techniques include recent methods from the fields of bioinformatics and genomics.
    • Advanced Concepts provide further discussions of key theories and principles.
    • Medical Connections highlight how understanding basic mechanisms sheds light on—and may lead to treatment of—medical conditions and human diseases.

New to this Edition

Highlights of Changes to the Book:

  • A new section early in the book, entitled “The Structure and Study of Macromolecules”, builds from the concepts of basic chemical bonds in simple molecules to the formation of macromolecules and includes two new chapters, “The Structure of RNA” and “The Structure of Proteins and Protein: Nucleic acid interactions”.  The chapters in this section provide a coherent and comprehensive description ofthe structures of DNA, RNA and proteins, and their various interactions, as well as the strategies and techniques used to study them.
  • A new chapter on the Origins and Early Evolution of Life shows how the techniques of molecular biology and biochemistry allow us to consider—even reconstruct—how life might have arisen, and addresses the prospect of creating life in a test tube. The chapter also demonstrates how, even at the very early stages of life, molecular processes were subject to evolution. This chapter reinforces many basic principles of chemistry and molecular biology in a new context, helping the student appreciate them more fully
  • A more complete integration of experiments and methods is woven into the text. A newly revised chapter on basic, as well as advanced, methods of molecular biology and genomics is presented early in the book, before students learn about the details and processes of molecular biology—replication, recombination, gene expression. More specialized techniques, tied to those particular processes, are included within boxes in the relevant chapters.
  • Improved summaries at the end of each chapter focus on the key concepts covered.
  • New End-of-chapter problems provide students with opportunities to practice responding to the kinds of short-answer or essay questions that they might see on a test or exam. An answer key for the odd-numbered questions is provided in an Appendix®.

Table of Contents


1. Mendelian View of the World

2. Nucleic Acids Convey Genetic Information



3. Weak and strong chemical bonds.

4. The Structure of DNA

5. The Structure of RNA

6. The Structure of Proteins and Protein: Nucleic Acid Interactions

7. Techniques of Molecular Biology



8. Genome Structure, Chromatin and the Nucleosome

9. The Replication of DNA

10. The Mutability and Repair of DNA

11. Homologous Recombination at the Molecular Level

12. Site Specific Recombination and Transposition of DNA



13. Mechanisms of Transcription

14. RNA Splicing

15.  Translation

16.  The Genetic Code

17.  Origins and early evolution of life



18. Transcriptional Regulation in Prokaryotes

19. Transcriptional Regulation in Eukaryotes

20. Regulatory RNAs

21. Gene Regulation in Development and Evolution

22. Systems Biology



Model Organisms


James D. Watson is Chancellor Emeritus at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where he was previously its Director from 1968 to 1993, President from 1994 to 2003, and Chancellor from 2003 to 2007. He spent his undergraduate years at the University of Chicago and received his Ph.D. in 1950 from Indiana University. Between 1950 and 1953, he did postdoctoral research in Copenhagen and Cambridge, England. While at Cambridge, he began the collaboration that resulted in the elucidation of the double-helical structure of DNA in 1953. (For this discovery, Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962.) Later in 1953, he went to the California Institute of Technology. He moved to Harvard in 1955, where he taught and did research on RNA synthesis and protein synthesis until 1976. He was the first Director of the National Center for Genome Research of the National Institutes of Health from 1989 to 1992. Dr. Watson was sole author of the first, second, and third editions of Molecular Biology of the Gene, and a co-author of the fourth, fifth and sixth editions. These were published in 1965, 1970, 1976, 1987, 2003, and 2007, respectively. He is also a co-author of two other textbooks: Molecular Biology of the Cell and Recombinant DNA, as well as author of the celebrated 1968 memoir, The Double Helix, which in 2012 was listed by the Library Of Congress as one of the 88 books that shaped America.
Tania A. Baker is the Head of the Department and Whitehead Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She received a B.S. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Stanford University in 1988. Her graduate research was carried out in the laboratory of Professor Arthur Kornberg and focused on mechanisms of initiation of DNA replication. She did postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Kiyoshi Mizuuchi at the National Institutes of Health, studying the mechanism and regulation of DNA transposition. Her current research explores mechanisms and regulation of genetic recombination, enzyme-catalyzed protein unfolding, and ATP-dependent protein degradation. Professor Baker received the 2001 Eli Lilly Research Award from the American Society of Microbiology and the 2000 MIT School of Science Teaching Prize for Undergraduate Education and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2004 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2007. She is co-author (with Arthur Kornberg) of the book DNA Replication, Second Edition.
Stephen P. Bell is a Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He received B.A. degrees from the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology and the Integrated Sciences Program at Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley in 1991. His graduate research was carried out in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Tjian and focused on eukaryotic transcription. He did postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Bruce Stillman at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, working on the initiation of eukaryotic DNA replication. His current research focuses on the mechanisms controlling the duplication of eukaryotic chromosomes. Professor Bell received the 2001 ASBMB–Schering Plough Scientific Achievement Award, the 1998 Everett Moore Baker Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at MIT and the 2006 MIT School of Science Teaching Award.
Alexander A.F. Gann is the Lita Annenberg Hazen Dean and Professor in the Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He is also a Senior Editor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. He received his B.Sc in microbiology from University College London and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from The University of Edinburgh in 1989. His graduate research was carried out in the laboratory of Noreen Murray and focused on DNA recognition by restriction enzymes. He did postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Mark Ptashne at Harvard, working on transcriptional regulation, and that of Jeremy Brockes at the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research at University College London, where he worked on newt limb regeneration. He was a Lecturer at Lancaster University, U.K., from 1996 to 1999, before moving to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He is co-author (with Mark Ptashne) of the book Genes & Signals (2002), and co-editor (with Jan Witkowski) of The Annotated & Illustrated Double Helix.
Michael Levine is a Professor of Genetics, Genomics and Development at the University of California, Berkeley, and is also Co-Director of the Center for Integrative Genomics. He received his B.A. from the Department of Genetics at University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. with Alan Garen in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University in 1981. As a postdoctoral fellow with Walter Gehring and Gerry Rubin from 1982-1984, he studied the molecular genetics of Drosophila development.  Professor Levine's research group currently studies the gene networks responsible for the gastrulation of the Drosophila and Ciona (sea squirt) embryos. He holds the F. Williams Chair in Genetics and Development at University of California, Berkeley. He was awarded the Monsanto Prize in Molecular Biology from the National Academy of Sciences in 1996, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996 and the National Academy of Sciences in 1998.
Richard M. Losick is the Maria Moors Cabot Professor of Biology, a Harvard College Professor, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences at Harvard University. He received his A.B. in chemistry at Princeton University and his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Upon completion of his graduate work, Professor Losick was named a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows when he began his studies on RNA polymerase and the regulation of gene transcription in bacteria. Professor Losick is a past Chairman of the Departments of Cellular and Developmental Biology and Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University. He received the Camille and Henry Dreyfuss Teacher-Scholar Award, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, a member of the American Philosophical Society, and a former Visiting Scholar of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Professor Losick is the 2007 winner of the Selman A. Waksman Award of the National Academy of Sciences, a 2009 winner of the Canada Gairdner Award, and a 2012 winner of the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize for Biology or Biochemistry of Columbia University.