Biochemistry

Biochemistry

221 Reaction Centres of Photosynthetic Bacteria E d i t e d by M E Michel-Beyerle. pp 450. Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg. 1991. D M 168 ISBN 3-540-5342...

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221

Reaction Centres of Photosynthetic Bacteria E d i t e d by M E Michel-Beyerle. pp 450. Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg. 1991. D M 168 ISBN 3-540-53420-2

However, this criticism applies to most other student texts in this area and Singer and Berg's book deserves to be recommended to students as supplementary reading. C A Smith

This is a volume for the specialist researcher rather than the student, being the collected papers from the meeting of the same name held in Feldafing (FRG) in March 1990. The papers are gathered under four topics; the structure and spectroscopy of reaction centres, and their electron transfer dynamics, the effects of mutagenesis on reaction centre function and finally, modelling of reaction centre structure and function. Many of the contributions are by workers who have made seminal contributions to this field such as Michel and Feher and the volume takes stock in the light of the major advances which have occurred in reaction centre biochemistry within the last few years. For this type of book, ie camera ready articles, it is produced to a good standard with a useful index. Perhaps more importantly, it has appeared within a respectably short interval following the meeting itself. Its price of DM 168 (about £59), seems reasonable for this type of limited run work given the number of pages - - all too often research monographs of this ilk are somewhat 'slim volumes'. In summary, this is a book which has little or no general interest value but is for library purchase or for the specialist worker within this field. For this limited market it would be a recommended acquisition. P A Millner

Genes and Genomes: A Changing Perspective by M a x i n e Singer and Paul Berg. pp 929. Blackwell Scientific Publications, O x f o r d 1991. £49.50/£27.50 I S B N 0 - 6 3 2 - 0 2 8 7 9 - 3 (Soft cover) I S B N 0 - 6 3 2 - 0 3 0 5 2 - 6 ( H a r d cover) This student-oriented textbook consists of four sections covering the molecular basis of heredity (Part I), the recombinant DNA breakthrough (Part II), the molecular anatomy, expression, and

regulation of eukaryotic genes (Part III) and understanding and manipulating biological systems (Part IV). Each section consists of a relatively lengthy 'perspective' given as an introduction. These are followed in the first three parts by a number of chapters which develop a variety of themes: 'The Genetic Molecules' in chapter 1 (Part I) to 'Genomic Rearrangements' (Part III). Students will like this text. The writing is clear and straightforward so that facts are easily assimilated and arguments/ discursive points readily followed. The text is copiously illustrated with line diagrams which are generally simple and informative. Perhaps a better choice could have been made of the second colour which varies between a degenerate magenta and washed out pink in the tone. The content of the book is generally good, although as might be expected, the descriptions of basic processes tend to rely more on prokaryotic rather than eukaryotic mechanisms. For example, although the D N A pol enzymes are described in some detail, eukaryotic DNA polymerase enzymes are perfunctorily described and pol ~ gets only a mention (p 88). The part on recombination D N A is particularly good and it is a welcome sight to see even a short section on the computer storage of DNA sequences. Genes and Genomes suffers from the disadvantage that its most direct competitor is probable Molecular Biology of the Gene by Watson et al and when compared against the splendid fourth edition of that text it appears to lack style and panach6.

BIOCHEMICAL EDUCATION 19(4) 1991

Chromatographic Analysis of Alkaloids by Milan Popl, Jan F/ihnrich and Vlastimil Tatar. pp 667. Marcel D e k k e r , N e w Y o r k . 1990. $150 ISBN 0-8247-8140-6 All chemists have heard of alkaloids but it is doubtful whether many could provide a good definition. They are of course of immense importance and include drugs such as cocaine and heroin, stimulants such as caffeine and even the poison used in Agatha Christie's play - - "Black Coffee" - - hyoscine hydrobromide! Chromatographic analysis of plants, illicit drugs, body fluids, etc is used to identify alkaloids in the fields of forensic chemistry, medicine and pharmacology and quantitative estimates are required, for example, for pharmacokinetic studies. Popl, F/ihnrich and Tatar have produced a very comprehensive review in their book "Chromatographic Analysis of Alkaloids". I was impressed by their thorough approach and depth. The book is clearly aimed at assisting other scientists to develop methods for chromatographic separation of alkaloids and not just at locating existing literature methods. Their approach is systematic. In chapter 1, they have successfully attempted to classify what is undoubtedly a very wide range of chemicals. In chapter 2, properties of alkaloids relevant to chromatographic analysis are discussed. General theory of chromatography in chapter 3 is followed by sections on GC, LC and TLC. Quite extensive theoretical discussions are followed by applications of each technique to separation of each class of alkaloid. Analysts of substances other than alkaloids could find the basic theory useful. A large part of the book (329 pages) is devoted to applications. True to this systematic approach, the authors first outline general principles of extraction from pharmaceutical preparations, plant tissues, biological samples, etc, and then proceed to give examples of separations of all classes of alkaloids. The book is well illustrated throughout with graphs and considerable effort has been put into collecting together valuable data (eg spectral data, solubility characteristics, etc) into the form of tables. A comprehensive index enables one to quickly locate an established method of analysing a given compound. Bibliography extends to over 1200 citations. This is a vital reference book for those in the field. J J Childs

Biochemistry by M a r y K Campbell. pp 679. Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia. 1991. International Edition £19.95 ISBN 0-03-055119-6 This book is intended for students who want a one-semester introduction to biochemistry, and some biological and chemical knowledge is assumed. The text is attractive with full colour artwork including pictures of biomolecules by Irving Geis who also wrote the chapter overviews. In addition there are text Boxes, Summaries, Exercises and Answers, and a Glossary, and "Interviews" with a number of working biochemists (typical

222 question "what made you want to be a scientist?"). As always in books of this type, there are colourful pictures of frogs (contents XVI and p 79). The five main sections, each containing several chapters, are The Position of Biochemistry in the Sciences (this includes cell structure and relevant chemistry of water, Hbonding, pH and buffers). The Molecular Nature of Cellular Components (chemistry), The Dynamic Aspects of Biochemical Reactions (thermodynamics, proteins and enzymes, membranes), Metabolism, and The Workings of the Genetic Code (structure and biosynthesis of nucleic acids, protein biosynthesis). There are also vast numbers of colour pictures of crystals of various biomolecules. They are nice pictures but it is not clear what students are supposed to do with them. The book is beautifully produced and reasonable in price, and a lot of the writing is very clear. (Dr Campbell says her goal was to make biochemistry as clear and interesting as possible). However, this is not always the case and there are some terribly unclear passages. Try p 279: "In photosynthesis, light splits H20 molecules in green plants, giving off oxygen into the atmosphere. The energy of sunlight is stored in starch granules in the plant cell. Animals capture the nutritional energy of starch by converting it to glucose, which is oxidized to carbon dioxide and water . . . N A D H is oxidized when it transfers an electron to N A D ÷ . . . oxidation of a glucose molecule is complete when two electrons and two protons join an oxygen atom to form H20. Energy generated in this reaction is conserved by transforming low energy A D P to higher energy ATP." (One gets the feeling of marking student essays). We looked at this text very carefully to see whether it would be suitable for our one-semester course in biochemistry. Ultimately, we decided that it would not do, because of omissions and errors. The overall size of the book is satisfactory and it is easier to understand than Stryer at least in some parts. The Boxes contain topics of peripheral interest and are well done, and the questions and answers look good. However, the selection of the subject matter is disappointing (at least for our course). There are too many reaction mechanisms and many unnecessary metabolic pathways for a beginner's book. (Examples are pathways of biosynthesis of amino acids, cholesterol, purines, pyrimidines and porphyrins, although these sections are probably sufficiently self-contained as to be capable of being ignored). The colour on the whole works well (see cytochrome c on p 161 and neuromuscular junctions on p 268), but occasionally is horrible (see HbS on p 167 and chymotrypsin on p 243). Carboxypeptidase appears shortly after this, but Stryer's pictures of this enzyme are difficult to beat. Graphs are all done in a specific 3-D style (although that on p 224 is sideways) and lines often extend beyond the data points. As usual, printers do not seem to be able to cope with ring sizes: sugar rings are always very much bigger than heterocyclic rings. However, it is the omissions and confusions that students would find misleading. Under enzyme action there is nothing about the effects of pH or temperature and almost nothing about irreversible inhibition. The membrane transport section goes into great detail on the Na+/K + ATPase but does not mention the saturation kinetics shown by passive transporters, nor the idea of symport or antiport. It is difficult to see any logic in the way the amino acids are laid out on the page (p 83). There does not seem to be any attempt at classification. Neither is the general metabolism of amino acids at all clearly set out. It is obscured by detail. Thus the foundations of transamination are not properly explained and in fact the word 'transamination' is used to include reactions involving NH3 (eg glutamate dehydrogenase and glutamine synthetase). The role of glutamate dehydrogenase in the deamination of most amino acids, via transamination, is not made clear. Neither is the fact that the N entering urea from aspartate is derived from other amino acids through transBIOCHEMICAL

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amination. There is a rather complicated diagram about transamination involving Schiff bases on p 467, but it is not clear from the text what it is all about. There is a reference to an earlier mention of transaminases but this fails to help. Another area that is confused is that of the nitrogen cycle (pp 460-463). Nitrification is defined in the text as nitrate reduction but the diagram (p 460) correctly shows it as the oxidation of ammonia to nitrate. The position of leguminous plants in Fig 18-1 is confusing. The section on protein purification is distinctly unhelpful. Molecular exclusion chromatography (p 207) has a lousy picture of what happens and affinity chromatography (p 208) is similarly poor. These diagrams would not illuminate students' ideas of how these processes work. There are many other errors. Glycolysis is shown inside the mitochondrion on (p 402), although labelled 'in cytosol', bacteriorhodopsin is shown pumping H * out of the vesicle instead of into it (p 377), the summary of fatty acid catabolism says that oxidation begins with the terminal CH 3 group, and the term 'substrate-level phosphorylation' is misused, being applied to the glycogen phosphorylase reaction and to the formation of 1,3-bisphosphoglycerate (p 315). Glycogen synthesis seems to be omitted altogether, there are no oxygen electrode experiments and no clear statement that the rate of respiration is controlled by the A D P supply. It is certainly of no help to students to write (p 364) "For an electron acceptor to oxidise another substance that has already been oxidized, the electron acceptor must itself be very easily reduced." This certainly does not seem to fall into the remit of the author to make biochemistry as clear as possible. There are many other points that could be mentioned, but overall the book seems to be a missed opportunity. There is a need for a book of this size, and approximately this content, but this is not it - - at least until it is revised in a second edition. The authors seem to some extent overtaken by the graphics and the colour pictures at the expense of explaining biochemistry in simple terms. More consideration needs to be given to what to include and to what to leave out (eg a lot of reactions mechanisms and the Table 3.4 of Good buffers). The relegation of nucleic acids and protein synthesis to the very end of the book is also rather unusual these days. Many authors of texts now put this first, seeing it to be of predominant importance: it certainly warrants more prominence in this book if it is to appeal to students in the 1990s. J Burch and E J Wood

The Discipline of Curiosity: Science in the World E d i t e d by J G r e e n , E Smit a n d J E i j s v o o g e l , p p 156. E l s e v i e r , A m s t e r d a m . 1990. ISBN 0-444-88861-6 A book of short essays in which 15 'opinion leaders' give their vision of the changing role of science in society. The opinion leaders - - prominent figures from international politics, business, communication and science - - include Frederico Mayor, Director General of UNESCO and former biochemist, and John Maddox, editor of Nature. Although the short articles are quite interesting they are to a large extent ephemeral and offer little more than one might find in any of the quality newspapers.