Skip to main content


The Molecules of Life

Introducing an issue about the new biology, which seeks to explain the molecular mechanisms underlying biological complexity. It has given rise to an industry, and to new ways of thinking about life

By Robert A. Weinberg


The genetic material's double helix, the fundamental molecule of life, is variable and also flexible. It interacts with regulatory proteins and other molecules to transfer its hereditary message

By Gary Felsenfeld


In all cells genetic information stored in DNA is converted into protein by RNA, which usually must be processed, even spliced, to serve its function. The first genes may have been spliced RNA

By James E. Darnell Jr.


Proteins are the molecules encoded by genes. The proteins in turn give rise to structure and, by virtue of their selective binding to other molecules, make genes and all the other machinery of life

By Russell F. Doolittle

The Molecules of the Cell Membrane

They spontaneously form a simple, two-dimensional liquid controlling what enters and leaves the cell. Some cells internalize and then recycle a membrane area equivalent to their entire surface in less than an hour

By Mark S. Bretscher

The Molecules of the Cell Matrix

Proteins in the cytoplasm form a highly structured yet changeable matrix affecting cell shape, division and motion, and the transport of vesicles and organelles. It may also have a bearing on metabolism

By Klaus Weber and Mary Osborn

The Molecules of the Immune System

The proteins that recognize foreign invaders are the most diverse proteins known. They are encoded by hundreds of scattered gene fragments, which can be combined in mlllions or blllions of ways

By Susumu Tonegawa

The Molecular Basis of Communication between Cells

Chemical messengers mediate long-range hormonal communication and short-range communication between nerve cells. The two systems differ in directness, but some messenger molecules are common to both

By Solomon H. Snyder

The Molecular Basis of Communication within the Cell

The number of substances serving as signals in cells is remarkably small. Each such "second messenger" is a crucial guide for the cell, helping to determine how the cell responds to the organism's needs

By Michael J. Berridge

The Molecular Basis of Development

How is the basic architecture of an embryo laid down? The discovery ofa short stretch of DNA called the homeobox apparently provides a crucial part of the answer in a remarkably wide range of organisms

By Walter J. Gehring

The Molecular Basis of Evolution

The discovery that mutations accumulate at steady rates over time in the genes of all lineages of plants and animals has led to new insights into evolution at the molecular and the organismal levels

By Allan C. Wilson


  • 50 and 100 Years Ago: October 1985

  • Science and the Citizen, October 1985

  • Letters

    Letters to the Editors, October 1985

  • Recommended

    Books, October 1985

  • Amateur Scientist

    The Amateur Scientist, October 1985

  • Departments

    The Authors, October 1985

  • Computer Recreations, October 1985

  • Bibliography, October 1985

Purchase To Read More

Already purchased this issue? Sign In to Access
Select Format

Introducing Scientific American Health & Medicine

Introducing Scientific American Health & Medicine