Biochemist Waldo Cohn had taught Kornberg the powerful technique of ion exchange chromatography in 1949. In this letter, he
responded to Kornberg's recent work on the likely configuration of the nucleotides he was then studying.
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1951-03-15 (March 15, 1951)
Cohn, W. E.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Original Repository: Stanford University Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Arthur Kornberg Papers
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
From Physician to Enzyme Hunter, 1942-1953
March 15, 1951
Volkin and I are not quite with you in your discussion of our "a" "b" nucleotides. We do not see why there
should only be one type of linkage, be it 5' or 3'. We would like to think of at least two kinds, one in greater
number than the other. We hope that something like our new diphosphates may prove to be the junctions between similar polynucleotides
in the intact nucleic acid. Also, as Volkin pointed out to me today when we were discussing these matters, there are two
bonds for each phosphorus atom so that summation of all phosphorus linkages is 200% of the amount of phosphorus or of all
mononucleotides present. At any rate, we think we are on a profitable tact as far as chemical structure is concerned.
Doherty and I are in agreement on the following: the chemical evidence is in the same state as the enzymatic evidence with
regard to the structure of the "a" nucleotides; both are not unequivocal. Enzymes which differentiate between alpha
and beta isomers are known; phosphor-migration and single phosphates doubly bound to a single sugar molecule are also known.
The problem is right where it was a year ago and it will remain there until someone like Todd synthesizes a 2' nucleotide
or the cyclic phosphorus compound referred to or until better degradative conditions are worked out. Doherty feels that Todd
will be the one to do these jobs and has sent him a gram of each of the adenylic acids of the highest purity.
We have used up the last of that wonderful preparation of bull semen 5' nucleotidase that Leon sent Carter a long time
ago. Before we start on the job of preparing some for ourselves, we would like to know whether Leon would consider letting
us have some more, that is assuming he has any on hand. It was a great help to have this preparation on hand, as you can
I am afraid that I cannot get to Boston, much as I would like to, but do hope to see you in Cleveland. Are you going to the
Gordon Conference the last week in August?