Definition of Hershey-Chase experiment

Reviewed on 6/3/2021

Hershey-Chase experiment: An extraordinarily important experiment in 1952 that helped to convince the world that DNA was the genetic material. Alfred Hershey (1908-1997) and his assistant Martha Chase (1923-2003) at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory showed that the DNA, not the protein, of the phage virus contains the phage genes. After a phage particle attaches to a bacterium, its DNA enters through a tiny hole while its protein coat remains outside. Key to the success of the experiment was showing that viral infection was unaffected by violent agitation in a kitchen blender (a Waring Blendor) which removed the empty viral protein shells from the bacterial surface. The Hershey-Chase experiment became known as the "blender experiment."

Alfred D. Hershey won a Nobel Prize for his insights into the nature of viruses in 1969, along with Max Delbruck and Salvador Luria. In a 1997 memoriam to Hersey, James Watson wrote that "the Hershey-Chase experiment had a much broader impact than most confirmatory announcements and made me ever more certain that finding the three-dimensional structure of DNA was biology's next important objective. The finding of the double helix by Francis Crick and me came only 11 months after my receipt of a long Hershey letter describing his blender experiment results."


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