Intracellular trafficking of proteins

Intracellular trafficking of proteins

TIBS 17 - AUGUST 1992 Green light for protein trafficking Intracellular Trafficking of Proteins edited by C, J, Steer and J, H, Hanover, Cambridge Un...

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TIBS 17 - AUGUST 1992

Green light for protein trafficking Intracellular Trafficking of Proteins edited by C, J, Steer and J, H, Hanover, Cambridge University Press, 1 9 9 1 . £ 8 5 . 0 0 (xvii ÷ 745 pages) ISBN 0 5 2 1 36120 6

In recent years molecular cell biologists have been given ever-increasing opportunities to comment on 'recent trends', offer their 'current opinions', and give their 'views' on other people's 'news'. With electronic publishing there will be even more opportunities, but as long as this scientific flotsam is left on the surface, well separated from considered, in-depth reviews, they can be taken as a sign of vigour rather than as a break-up in the subject. An important test for the editors of lntracellular Trafficking of Proteins, a book with 20 authors and running to over 700 pages, is to be up to date and still maintain this distinction. On the whole they have succeeded: they have also chosen first authors who are well-known in their field, but, for the most part, have not recently written a major review. They have thus obtained fresh, well-informed accounts that are nevertheless carefully considered and comp~rehensive. In my own area of interest, t h e chapters by Courtoy, Maxfield, Schwartz and Harford are exemplary: balanced and conscientious in their presentation of the literature and always looking for the constructive consensus~in their interpretations. With a secondary editorial task, that of dove-tailing and avoiding overlap between the different chapters, the editors have done less well. One has the feeling that if only the contributors had read each others' chapters, the book could have been reduced in length by as much as a third. Reiteration does, however, give unexpected insights. When, for example, no less that eight different contributors attempt to describe the form and function of the trans-Go!gi network and none of them agree, t h e n i t begins to look as though we have a name that is still looking for a compartment. While there is too much overlap in general, it is also clear that a topic can be over dissected. In the first two chapters, Anderson and Steer (a co-editor) and Heuser discuss internalization and scrupulously avoid covering the same ground: This reviewer was left, however, with the feeling that if, in this instance, the eggs had remained with the bacon it would have made for a much m()re satisfying meal. Also a serving as important as phagocytosis might not then have been left out.


Away from protei 0 trafficking in the plane of the membrane, problems of overlap don't arise. In the middle section of the book, two chapters deal with toxin uptake and processing and the final 100 pages cover transport into nuclei, mitochondria and peroxisomes. All these chapters provide straightforward reviews of a high quality that could stand alone. Given the recent, rapid progress in these areas, these contributions are impressively up t o date. Attempting to bring out a book with 20 se[s of contributing authors in a fastmoving area like protein trafficking is an ambiti6us undertaking. Preventing it from being out of date before it's even published is an obvious problem and is clearly something that these editors considered very important. Some contributors responded by incorporating the most recent 1991 references smoothly and with a well-judged perspective. The

most recent information on yeast secretion mutants and clathrin-coated pit internalization signals are, for example, authoritatively covered. In a few chapters, however, the most recent references sit less comfortably and look like afterthoughts. On the whole, the book contains enough good quality reviews for the editors' claim to provide a 'lucid, panoramic view' of protein trafficking to be well justified. Do not be put off by the weight (3 IbM) or by the opening 'overview' in which no less than half of the references are papers by its authors. This is much more than a bonfire of the vanities.

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