Sydney Brenner: The Tamer of an Elegant Worm

Kaling Danggen (Lead / Corresponding author), Varsha Singh (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Contributions of Sydney Brenner, one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2002, to the area of molecular biology and genetics remain unparalleled. He is undoubtedly the most famous South African biologist with contribution to the central dogma (DNA to RNA to protein) of molecular biology, and for proving that non-overlapping triplet codons specify amino acids in a peptide. He pioneered the use of molecular biology to understand animal development. Although inspired by T H Morgan and H J Muller, Brenner found eutelic organisms, with a fixed number of cells in adult individuals, to be better models to understand how an entire organism comes to be from a zygote. His selection of Caenorhabditis elegans was so well thought out that it allowed him not only to perform lineage analysis for each of the 959 cells but also let White and Brenner draw the entire wiring diagram for the nervous system of C. elegans, a feat not accomplished for any other animal so far. We intend this article to summarize some of the key findings of Sydney Brenner’s work on C. elegans spanning two decades.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1061-1069
Number of pages9
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • chemotaxis eutely
  • connectome
  • genes
  • nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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