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Nucleic Acids Res. 2011 January; 39(1): iii.
Published online 2011 January 3. doi:  10.1093/nar/gkr003
PMCID: PMC3017625


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Cover: In 1961 Marshall W. Nierenberg and J. Heinrich Matthaei set up an in vitro translation system where purified bacterial ribosomes supplemented with a fraction of low molecular weight RNA were synthesizing proteins upon adding template RNA. Using this system they demonstrated that synthetic template polyU codes for poly-phenylanine. The genetic code started to be revealed. Marshall W. Nirenberg, Robert W. Holley and Har Gobind Khorana subsequently shared the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis. Khorana was awarded the prize for synthesizing triplets and repeating sequences that led to the completion of the genetic code. Holley was awarded the prize for elucidating the first sequence of a transfer-RNA, which was then used in protein synthesis to interpret the triplet code on the mRNA. The photograph of J.H. Mattheai & M.W. Nirenberg was taken by N. MacVicar and is reproduced courtesy of the National Institute of Health. The cover graphic was created with blender ( by Julien Dorier and Andrzej Stasiak (Center for Integrative Genomics, University of Lausanne, Switzerland).

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