Field of Science

Review articles to be written

Two, in fact. I really really need to publish a review about the evolution of competence (=DNA uptake). Something like my Do bacteria have sex review, but updated and focusing much more on the competence and uptake issues. And I've also promised to write a chapter on competence and transformation for a book celebrating a wonderful colleague. The model for this book is Phage and the Origins of Molecular Biology, written as a feitschrift for Max Delbruck. Ideally I'd love to produce something as charming as Andre Lwoff's The Prophage and I in that book, but I think I'd better lower my standards and get the job done.

Starting now.

OK, the first things I need are outlines.

For the book chapter, I was thinking about writing it as several levels of history, maybe interleaved (?): my personal history of working on competence and transformation, the history of research into competence and transformation, and the evolutionary history. But I don't know how I would make my personal history interesting - maybe emphasizing how I came to realize that the standard view is probably wrong?

What about an outline for the evolution of competence review? It should be driven by a question, probably "Why do bacteria take up DNA?", and should emphasize the unanswered questions and the research that's needed, rather than claiming that the answer is now known. Maybe I'll start with the big picture issue of the evolutionary and proximate causes and consequences of genetic exchange in bacteria, summarizing the arguments in Do bacteria have sex?. This introduction would conclude that the only phenomenon requiring more research is competence. Then I'll consider the components of competence (regulation, DNA uptake mechanisms, and the associated cytoplasmic 'DNA processing' events), putting what we know in the context of the evolutionary questions and explaining how additional information would clarify things.

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