Boris Ephrussi studied fruit flies, yeast, and mouse genetics and development while working in France and the US during the twentieth century. In yeast, Ephrussi studied how mutations in the cytoplasm persisted across generations. In mice he studied the genetics of hybrids and the development of cancer. Working with George Wells Beadle on the causes of different eye colors in fruit flies, Ephrussi's research helped establish the one-gene-one-enzyme hypothesis. Ephrussi helped create new embryological techniques and contributed the theories of genetics and development.
The one gene-one enzyme hypothesis, proposed by George Wells Beadle in the US in 1941, is the theory that each gene directly produces a single enzyme, which consequently affects an individual step in a metabolic pathway. In 1941, Beadle demonstrated that one gene in a fruit fly controlled a single, specific chemical reaction in the fruit fly, which one enzyme controlled. In the 1950s, the theory that genes produce enzymes that control a single metabolic step was dubbed the one geneÐone enzyme hypothesis by Norman Horowitz, a professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and an associate of Beadle's. This concept helped researchers characterize genes as chemical molecules, and it helped them identify the functions of those molecules.
George Wells Beadle studied corn, fruit flies, and funguses in the US during the twentieth century. These studies helped Beadle earn the 1958 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Beadle shared the prize with Edward Tatum for their discovery that genes help regulate chemical processes in and between cells. This finding, initially termed the one gene-one enzyme hypothesis, helped scientists develop new techniques to study genes and DNA as molecules, not just as units of heredity between generations of organisms. By inducing mutations in organisms while they were in different embryonic stages, Beadle's work on Drosophila and Neurospora led to the analysis of the cell cycle and embryonic development processes.
Boris Ephrussi and George Wells Beadle developed a transplantation technique on flies, Drosophila melanogaster, which they described in their 1936 article A Technique of Transplantation for Drosophila. The technique of injecting a tissue from one fly larva into another fly larva, using a micropipette, to grow that tissue in the second larvae, was a means for investigating development of Drosophila. Through this technique, Beadle and Ephrussi studied the role of genes in embryological processes. Beadle and Ephrussi were the first to apply the transplantation method, which had previously been used in the study of larger insects, to the smaller sized Drosophila. Beadle and Ephrussi used this method of transplantation to determine if parts of the optic disc, the section of a larvae that later become the eye buds in the adult, could be extracted from one larva and transplanted into another. They later built upon this research to relate the production of molecules in cells to gene function.
In 1935, George Beadle and Boris Ephrussi developed a technique to transplant optic discs between fruit fly larvae. They developed it while at the California Institute of Technology in Pasedena, California. Optic discs are tissues from which the adult eyes develop. Beadle and Ephrussi used their technique to study the development of the eye and eye pigment. (1) The experimenter dissects a donor larva, which is in the third instar stage of development, and removes the optic disc (colored red) with a micropipette.