Biochemistry and molecular biology

Biochemistry and molecular biology

251 metabolic pathways occurring in a variety of organisms. The experimental approaches by genetic manipulations, molecular biology techniques and cla...

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251 metabolic pathways occurring in a variety of organisms. The experimental approaches by genetic manipulations, molecular biology techniques and classical enzyme kinetics are described. In the same way, it is explained how the results of in vivo flux modulations and computer simulations are consistent with the theoretical predictions. A reflective reading of Chapter 7 is essential for a complete understanding of the naturally occurring metabolic regulation strategies. Many ideas on feed-back inhibition, branched pathways, substrate cycles, enzyme cycles by covalent modification, etc are revised under the metabolic control analysis theory. Finally, the last chapter (8) evaluates this new view of physiological control. The limitations of the theory are considered in two groups: the objections to the control analysis theory and the potential problems which demand an extension of the theory in the future, since only the simplest aspects are described in the present book. In the author's words: 'control analysis alone may be not able to tackle all conceivable problems in regulation and control. Nevertheless, it is a better starting point for acquiring a deeper understanding than the qualitative principles of conventional biochemistry'. A synopsis summarizing in a few paragraphs the main topics covered short is located at the end of each chapter and these abstracts are masterfully written. I would recommend working on the respective chapters with a reflective reading of these summaries. The selected bibliography is up to date, and available computer programs are also reported. Special attention might be given to the original problem collection presented at the end of each chapter. Although the problems are not solved in the text, there are no special difficulties in solving them, if the theory is correctly applied, since they are very consistent. This book will be of greatest value for investigators, because it provides a new and complete paradigm not only for the biochemists actively reasearching in the metabolic regulation, but also for molecular biologists and geneticists, in order to integrate many dispersed and often rather unconnected experimental data. The holistic and systematic view has long been claimed by biologists, but there was not available a coherent theory. Fortunately, now it is possible. We thank Dr Fell for this masterpiece which I recommend for reading by young and senior biochemists. I Nfifiez de Castro

The Oxford Dictionary Molecular Biology




G e n e r a l Editors: A D Smith, S P D a t t a , G H Smith, P N Campbell, R B e n t l e y a n d H A M c K e n z i e . pp 740. O x f o r d University Press. 1997. £34.95 I S B N 0-19-854768-4 The task of writing a complete dictionary of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is a formidable one. Not only has the field itself been extremely fertile over the past, say 50 years, but also the inventiveness and imagination of biochemists and later, molecular biologists, has also been unsurpassed in devising names for the tools of their trade and the things and phenomena they have investigated. Furthermore, in a large and active community of scientists, things and phenomena are often 'discovered' more than once and named independently (one only has to look at the 27 or so names for interleukin-1, for example...). Keeping up with the names demands wide reading (especially of the Lexicon section of Biochemical Education that ran for about ten years), and in the present Dictionary, to this is added the lifetime of experience in the trade of six old (I'm sure they won't mind my saying this) biochemists, assisted by some of their younger colleagues as 'subject editors'. Incidentally, as a biochemist, one marvels at the extent of one's vocabulary and


symphasises with new students entering the field today and having to pick up all this jargon. This latter perhaps illustrates the importance of getting our young students to talk in seminars and tutorials so that they actually have to use the words and tie them to concepts. The present volume seems to be very extensive and workmanlike. Most of the entries (about 17 000 of them) occupy a few lines, rarely a quarter of a page, and many abbreviations (our secret language?) are given and cross-referenced. Chemical structures are given in a lot of cases, such that there are typically one or two per page. There are no other illustrations (is this the difference between a dictionary and an encyclopaedia?: see list of recent dictionaries/encyclopaedias at the end of this review). It has to be admitted that any dictionary is unlikely to have all the names of all the known enzymes and proteins, and all the known inborn errors of metabolism, etc. But having said this, the present volume does pretty well. There are also some biographic entries for famous biochemists. There are some words (a few) that I would have thought not strictly biochemical (eg tapeworm, impure), but the general rule with dictionaries is the more the merrier. Proteins of known structures have their protein database codes attached to the entries, and in addition there is a short Appendix by T K Attwood on 'exploring the language of bioinformatics'. (Perhaps in the age of information, the whole dictionary will be on C D - R O M and one will be able to 'click' on structures.) There is also another helpful Appendix on 'the Internet' (by J H Parish and N A Maughan). No entries seem to carry a reference to the literature. This is probably too large a burden (and would add 40 lines to a typical page containing about 40 entries): however, it does mean that we are denied something of the history and the controversy. The spelling is American (international) throughout but with cross-references: eg adrenalin/epinephrine. This will be a useful addition to the groaning shelves of my library. Along with Scott and Mercer's Encyclopedia (see below), I would say that this is probably the most comprehensive (and accurate) of the dictionaries at present on offer. Some recently reviewed volumes are listed in Refs 1-7. E J Wood

References t Stenesh, J. (1989) Dictionary of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Wiley, New York (reviewed in Biochem. Educ. 18, 152) 2 Lackie, J. M. and Dow, J. A. T. (1989) Dictionary of Cell Biology. Academic Press, New York (reviewed in Biochem. Educ. 18 212) 3 Kendrew, J. (Ed.) (1994) The Encyclopaedia of Moelcular Biology. Blackwell Scientific, Oxford (reviewed in Biochem. Educ. 23, 105) 4 Myers, R. A. (1995) Molecular Biology and Biotechnology: A Comprehensive Desk Reference. VCH (reviewed in Biochem. Educ. 24, 67) 5 Juo, P.-S. (1996) Concise Dictionary of Biomedicine and Molecular Biology. CRC Press, FL (reviewed in Biochern. Educ. 24, 168) 6 Gliek, D. M. (1997) Glossary of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Portland Press (reviewed in Biochem. Educ. 25, 53) 7 Scott, T. A. and Mercer, E. 1. (1997) Concise Encyclopedia of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, third edition. Walter De Gruyter (reviewed in Biochem. Edue. 25, 85)

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology E d i t e d by W H Elliott and D C Elliott. pp 437. O x f o r d University Press. 1997. £19.99 I S B N 0-19-857793-1 This is a very impressive introductory textbook written with oneor two-semester courses in mind. It is well organised, beautifully illustrated and designed, a pleasure to read and a delight to study. Artistic use of colour (vibrant but not garish) makes it instantly appealing. The authors are a husband-and-wife team, both of whom are professors of long standing in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Adelaide, Australia. The appearance of

252 their book on the international market reflects the tremendous progress that Biochemistry and Molecular Biology have made in that country that has contributed significantly to the growth of both domains of our discipline in the past half-century or so. Rather surprisingly there is no biographical information on the authors. Nowhere is the book's birthplace made as clear as in the acknowledgements, where some two-thirds of the 44 persons included (for reviewing part or all of the book or for providing advice) are associated with universities or research institutions in Australia. There are 30 chapters distributed unequally among six parts. Part 1 consists of a chapter on 'Chemistry, Energy and Metabolism'; Part 2 contains two chapters on 'Structures of Proteins' and 'Cell Membranes'; Part 3 deals with 'Metabolism', in 15 chapters that are between 3 and 23 pages long; Part 4 contains nine chapters (including three on 'Viruses', the 'Immune System', and 'Chemical Signalling'); Part 5 consists of a chapter on the 'Red Blood Cell and Hemoglobin'; and the two chapters in Part 6 deal with 'Muscle' and 'Cytoskeleton'. Each chapter is prefaced by a summary of section and subsection headings, and ends with an annotated list of further reading and some problems. Answers to problems and an index complete the book. I enjoyed very much: (1) the emphasis on general principles, shorn of excess detail in all chapters; (2) the overall mammalian and physiological approach (that is so much more meaningful than the chemical approach, especially for students getting their first formal contact with Biochemistry), although photosynthesis and viruses are also included; (3) the continuing conversation between authors and reader with frequent orientation in terms of the book's organisation and frequent brief recapitulations, which makes the text very useful for self-instruction; (4) the graded presentation of topics, brief preliminary sketches being followed by discussion at more appropriate depth; (5) the headings of numerous sections and subsections being posed as questions rather than as bold summary statements; (6) the emphasis on an evolutionary attitude with frequent reference to evolution as tinkerer (for which the quotations from Charles Darwin and Francois Jacob, immediately after the title page, set the stage). These reveal the Elliots as experienced and dedicated teachers committed to facilitating understanding and appreciation of the beauty and simplicity of the chemical, molecular and cellular principles that underline all life processes. Minor weaknesses are very occasional colloquialisms and, more frequently, unusual word usage (eg eukaryote and prokaryote both noun and adjective, interchangeable use of conformation and configuration in the chemical sense, and cytoplasm and cytosol). There are very very few factual errors worth noting. This book should prove popular among a very broad variety of students for whom understanding of principles is more important than memorisation (and regurgitation at examination times) of large amounts of poorly comprehended factual information. There are many such students around the world who will benefit from this masterly book. F Vella

Textbook of Biochemistry with Clinical Correlations (Fourth Edition) Edited by T M Devlin. pp 1186. Wiley-Liss, New York. 1997. £29.95. I S B N 0-471-1541-2 Going through this new fourth edition of'Devlin' is like meeting up with an old friend again, perhaps an old friend with a new suit of clothes. It is valued by medical students for its emphasis on human biochemistry and its clinical correlations. This new fourth edition is about the same size (in number of pages) as the third edition (1992), but the chief feature that will be noted on initially opening the book is the addition of full colour. Many of


the figures have been redesigned or at least have had colour added to them. The clinical correlation 'boxes' are now much easier to read (being set over a bluish tone instead of the previous red). Surely students will find this an attractive volume to own.

The arrangement of chapters and their content is mostly unchanged since edition number three. The contributors are indeed nearly identical, with the exception that A H Mehler and Marilyn Wells are replaced by Marguerite Coomes (now providing a unified Chapter 11 on amino acids instead of the previous two chapters), and T J Schmidt (now writing with G Litwack on the two hormones chapters). However, the content of these chapters has not changed radically. Indeed, many chapters and figures are clearly recognisable going from the third to fourth edition, with small mutations and the change in colour scheme already noted. Professor Devlin himself writes in the Preface that he believes that a multi-author approach is the best way in which to achieve accurate and current presentation. (This is perhaps an admission that none of us keeps up with all areas of the subject, although we expect our students to do this, poor things!) He says that each author is actively involved in teaching and that each brings to the book an individual approach, and that this outweighs small differences in style and overlaps, etc. Some of these latter could have been better cross-referenced to the benefit of students (who may not read the text in a linear fashion). Thus, for example, the material on hexokinase on p 157 (in Enzymes) does not seem to link with Tom Steitz's famous picture on p 47 (on Proteins), and vice versa. Similarly, the three clinical correlations on Gout do not seem to link up, other than in the Index. The most significant addition to the fourth edition is the inclusion of about 50 new clinical correlations. Most people will be familiar with these now. They give clinical correlations of the basic biochemistry, but do not go as far as actual cases. The new list is impressive and actually provides the main updates to the text. To name but a few, some new topics are: Luft's disease, cystic fibrosis, leptin, DNA vaccines, topoisomerases and cancer, triplex DNA, mitochondrial mutations, xeroderma pigmentosum, telomerases, RTase inhibition and AIDS, fragile X syndrome, DMD, macular degeneration, myocardial infarct, iron overload, iron-deficiency anaemia, diaspinin haemoglobin, and renal osteodystrophy. This illustrates the important fact (for biochemistry teachers) that as we understand more and more, the better we can explain complex and common diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. Some minor niggles include the general one that, while some sugar molecules are filled in with colour or tone, not all of them are. This is presumably artistic licence. I still do not think it is very sensible to give medical students general references such as Advances in Enzymology and Advances in Enzyme Regulation (ie without citing specific articles) as is done in the above chapter on Enzymes. It is a pity that a more up-to-date figure for the F~ ATPase was not included, but this was probably published just about the time the manuscript was being prepared. The incorrect formula for etretinate (and the related paragraph on synthetic retinoids) have now been removed, but unfortunately, the section on RAR/RXR does not mention 9-c/~-retinoic acid. There would have been an opportunity for a clinical correlation of retinoic acid treatment of acute promyelocytic leukaemia here too. The part about Marfan disease is now deleted. This is not a collagen mutation as used to be thought, but a mutation in the protein fibrillin. A new clinical correlation about this is not offered. Some chapters seem rather thin on clinical correlations. This is perhaps surprising, for example, in the chapter on polypeptide hormones, where there must be lots of syndromes. But overall the high standard of accuracy and proof-reading, along with clear and simple diagrams we have come to expect have been maintained in this classic text. A CD-ROM is avail-