I write at last about the proposed nomenclature for retrovirus "oncogenes"; please accept my apologies for the delay.
My tardiness undoubtedly reflects the fact that I have little enthusiasm for any of the proposals, yet have none better to
propose. I fear that we are about to certify an awkward albatross -- to this day, few of the designations proposed in the
Coffin-Varmus scheme have become second nature to me: I wish we could tie the scheme more directly to the names of the viruses,
in order to achieve ease of recognition, but I see no uniform way to do this and still adhere to the three letter constraint.
I am also troubled by the alleles -- which it clearly does not (as Dave Baltimore and several others pointed out in earlier
I have found a repeated need for generic terms to represent oncogenes and proto-oncogenes. I suspect that oncogenes will
survive, whatever we do, but I do not relish the change to c-onc (cell oncogene) with all that that implies. What do you
think? I find proto-oncogene less committal, and less reminiscent of the "oncogene hypothesis" with its rather ill-conceived
relationship to reality as we now understand it.
As for some of the more controversial designations: I prefer myc to mac; I question the wisdom of doubling the nomenclature
for erb (ie., a and b), particularly at this early time; something has to be done about mas -- it seems too far removed from
the other FeSV designations, which include the allusion to "feline"; I suggest rev rather than rel (even Temin didn't
recognize the latter . . .); and I certainly would not object to changing fps, as several others have suggested in earlier
Steve Martin is correct (as usual): the superscripts are a horrendous problem. Could we take this opportunity to change
the entire system to parenthetical designations that follow the Mr of the proteins?
In my heart of hearts, I think I would still prefer a more casual system in which a generic designation (such as onc) would
be followed by a parenthetical designation of the particular virus in question; thus, onc(MCV), onc(AEV), etc. But I find
no support for this in the available correspondence and therefore subscribe to the proposal before the house.