My life with bacteriophage phi29

J Biol Chem. 2012 Dec 28;287(53):44568-79. doi: 10.1074/jbc.X112.433458. Epub 2012 Nov 2.


This article is a survey of my scientific work over 52 years. During my postdoctoral stay in Severo Ochoa's laboratory, I determined the direction of reading of the genetic message, and I discovered two proteins that I showed to be involved in the initiation of protein synthesis. The work I have done in Spain with bacteriophage ϕ29 for 45 years has been very rewarding. I can say that I was lucky because I did not expect that ϕ29 would give so many interesting results, but I worked hard, with a lot of dedication and enthusiasm, and I was there when the luck arrived. I would like to emphasize our work on the control of ϕ29 DNA transcription and, in particular, the finding for the first time of a protein covalently linked to the 5'-ends of ϕ29 DNA that we later showed to be the primer for the initiation of phage DNA replication. Very relevant was the discovery of the ϕ29 DNA polymerase, with its properties of extremely high processivity and strand displacement capacity, together with its high fidelity. The ϕ29 DNA polymerase has become an ideal enzyme for DNA amplification, both rolling-circle and whole-genome linear amplification. I am also very proud of the many brilliant students and collaborators with whom I have worked over the years and who have become excellent scientists. This Reflections article is not intended to be the end of my scientific career. I expect to work for many years to come.

Publication types

  • Autobiography
  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus Phages* / genetics
  • Bacillus Phages* / physiology
  • Bacillus Phages* / ultrastructure
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Spain
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism
  • Virology / history*
  • Virus Replication


  • Viral Proteins

Personal name as subject

  • Margarita Salas