154 Textbook of Biochemistry
with Clinical Correlations
Edited by Thomas M Devlin. pp 1265. John Wiley & Sons, New York. 1982. £26.50 ISBN 0 - 4 7 1 - 0 5 0 3 9 - 3 ICe a s k e d t w o individuals, b o t h teachers in Medical Schools, to assess this n e w b o o k . D r Higgins teaches in a British m e d i c a l s c h o o l a n d D r Paselk in an A m e r i c a n one.
This is a magnificent text: large, comprehensive, up-to-date and exciting. As a multi-author treatise it does suffer somewhat from variability of style, but overall Dr Devlin is to be commended as editor for the uniformity of quality and point of view in this book. For a Medical School course 'Textbook of Biochemistry' has many things to commend it. Human biochemistry is stressed wherever possible, with other biochemical systems discussed only when necessary due to our current ignorance of human systems. The 'Clinical Correlations', brief, boxed descriptions of biochemical events in pathological states, are interesting and sure to demonstrate that biochemistry is indeed a 'relevant' study for the Medical Student. The book begins, in common with many recent texts, with a chapter on ceils (in this case eukaryotic only) and cell composition, including a discussion on water and electrolytes. Chapters on amino acids and protein structure, physiological proteins, enzymes, and membranes then follow. The first five chapters thus lay out the overall structural and functional aspects of biochemical systems. An orientation towards clinical biochemistry in these chapters is obvious in the selection of examples (the pH values of human fluids, electrophoresis of serum proteins, ion exchange chromatography of hemoglobin, chromatographic finger-prints of Hb digests, isozyme assays etc) and the proteins chosen for detailed examination (hemoglobin, immunoglobulins, serum lipoproteins). This orientation, along with the brief descriptions of the many techniques of biochemistry and the many figures illustrating clinical data, should make these valuable reference chapters for the Medical Student. And it should motivate these students with the obvious value of this material. The discussion of metabolism then begins with a chapter on bioenergetics and oxidative metabolism, followed by two chapters each on carbohydrates, lipids and amino acids; and a single chapter each on purines and pyrimidines, and on metabolic interrelationships. I really enjoyed these chapters. They are rather light on detailed chemistry and enzyme mechanisms, but they are excellent for metabolic regulation, pathway localization and metabolic variations of tissues. The consistent discussion of regulation in a single organism, man, is truly a strong point. Many texts present regulatory features from a variety of organisms, which I often find confusing and even educationally counterproductive. There are, after all, many optimal ways to regulate a complex system such as a living organism. To understand the principles and applications of regulatory concepts it is better to see how a single system operates, then one can carry over to other systems. Many texts also tend to gloss over tissue differences. Dr Devlin's book is refreshing in consistently pointing out these differences. Thus discussion of glycolysis includes a lovely figure illustrating glucose metabolism in RBCs, brain, muscle, adipose ceils, and liver parenchymal ceils. Knowledge of these tissue variations gives a qualitatively different and expanded perspective of the metabolism of the whole organism, versus the naive view which can arise from many texts. The instructor can also use some of the 'Clinical Correlations' to demonstrate aspects of regulation, tissue variability etc. My students were amazed to see how the interrelatedness of biochemical systems leads to the final consequences of Fructose Intolerance.
Metabolic integration is reiterated and carried to a higher level in the succeeding three chapters. Thus chapter 14 discusses tissue interrelationships during various metabolic states, while chapters 15 and 16 discuss the biochemistry of various hormones, including their biosynthesis and modes of action. DNA, RNA, protein biosynthesis and genetic regulation are given a thorough and, to the extent possible in these rapidlydeveloping fields, up-to-date treatment in four chapters. Both prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems are treated, a necessary inconsistency compared to the rest of the book, but a requirement to give an adequate treatment of these topics. These first 20 chapters constitute an essentially complete biochemistry text. However there are an additional six chapters covering some aspects of physiological chemistry: the metabolism of individual tissues, iron and heme metabolism, blood gases and pH, digestion and absorption of nutrients, and nutrition. These chapters vary considerably in biochemical content. For example, the first is a summary/description of specific tissue biochemistry; essentially a guide to applying previous material to specific tissues. There is little new here, but it is convenient. On the other hand there is much new biochemistry in the chapter on iron and heme metabolism. Though I found the information in these chapters interesting, I must ask whether they are necessary in a text already 1000 pages long without this material. And much of it will, after all, appear in other required coursework of the medical or biology student. The editor suggests that this book could serve as an upper division or graduate-level biochemistry text. For students in these courses the book has some advantages and some major deficiencies. To me the major advantages are its clear presentation of the biochemistry of a single organism, particularly regulation and control, and the constant attention to correlating particular pathways to specific tissues. I feel that most students are better served by gaining an integrated understanding of the workings of a single complete system, than they are by being inundated by scattered facts dealing with a myriad of organisms. I also feel it is important for students to realize that tissues in eukaryotes are specialized, in biochemistry as well as function, and that biochemical integration often comes only at the whole organism level. I was also impressed with the various authors' concern that purported processes have been shown to occur under physiological conditions and at physiological concentrations. How often in the past have we created fallacious models based on unrealistic in vitro experiments? The major deficiencies of this text are a complete lack of plant biochemistry, including photosynthesis, and the various important pathways lacking in humans, such as essential amino acid biosynthesis and vitamin biosynthesis. For the nonmedical student this is important stuff. Most students, including medical students, would also benefit from problems at the ends of the chapters. Overall I recommend this book as a medical school text and as an excellent reference. It has been very useful to me in preparing my own lectures for undergraduates. Richard A Paselk Convincing preclinical medical students of the importance of a sound grounding in basic biochemistry for understanding human disease and clinical medicine is often very difficult with the currently available biochemical textbooks. 'Textbook of Biochemistry with Clinical Correlations' goes a long way to making good the deficiency. Thomas Devlin and his twentyone co-authors aimed to produce a textbook for medical students in which biochemical events at the cellular level are related to physiological processes in the whole animal and the relevance of topics to disease problems is emphasised throughout.
155 Where there is a close relationship between clinical conditions and the biochemistry, eg lysosomal metabolism and lysosomal storage diseases, the clinical discussion is part of the main text, but in general the 150 or so "clinical correlations" are printed separately at the page margins and with a darker background so as not to interrupt the main text. These correlations cover a considerable range, describing the biochemistry of disease states, biochemical actions of antibiotics and drugs and use of biochemical tests in diagnosis. Often the same clinical condition, eg diabetes, thalassaemia, gout, is used to illustrate different points in separate chapters. This approach is attractive and for the most part these correlations succeed, but there are some surprising omissions and others are rather contrived. Besides the clinical correlations there are other useful features particularly welcome for medical s t u d e n t s - the sections on metabolic interrelationships, nutrition, metabolism of individual tissues, pH regulation, gas transport and genetic engineering. The basic biochemistry is sound and well-written, except for one or two chapters, and there is adequate crossreferencing. However, while this is an attractive book for medical students there are defects. Generally there is too much detail for British preclinical courses. The photographs and diagrams (black-and-white only) compare unfavourably with competing biochemistry books and the Index could be better for such a complex book where many topics cut across several sections. The major stumbling-block is the price in the UK; at £26.50, I simply cannot recommend this for British students, especially when other texts may be had at less than half this price. If the proposed paper-bound edition (January 1983) is very substantially cheaper, then it will be worth buying. S J Higgins
himself into the sort of muddle considered reprehensible in an undergraduate biochemistry student. The next paragraph tells us that a plot of reaction rate against substrate concentration allows the rate constants to be determined, but unfortunately the method of achieving this useful and remarkable feat is not given. I have concentrated on the small part of the book that is concerned with what I know most about, because I feel that if a book cannot give a clear and accurate account of what I know already it is unwise to trust what it says about anything else. Perhaps the author is stronger on thermodynamics than on kinetics, but I doubt it. It is not obvious, for example, that he has noticed that most biological processes occur at constant pressure in the liquid phase, rather than at constant volume in the gas phase. So when enthalpy and the Gibbs energy are mentioned at all they are treated as an afterthought and not as quantities that are central to the whole subject. The book is proudly described as a 'second, corrected and updated edition', though it contains virtually no references to modern experimental work in biology or biochemistry and refers, for example, to the unit membrane model of Danielli and Davson as 'generally accepted'. What the book must have been like before it was updated beggars the imagination. Athel Cornish-Bowden
Department of Biochemistry University of Birmingham Birmingham, UK
The Biochemistry of the Nucleic Acids, 9th Edition Thermodynamic Network Systems (Second Edition)
by J Schnakenberg. pp 149. Springer-Verlag, Berlin. 1981. DM 43. This book is intended for both physicists and nonphysicists, but I think that most biochemists will learn nothing from it and that physicists interested in applying their knowledge to biological systems would do better to learn something about biological systems first. When they have done so they will not need this book. Biophysics is a discipline that I approach with caution, because too often it seems to be a refuge for inadequate physicists who see themselves as missionaries among the head-hunters of humbler sciences. Although I can understand little of what they write, when I do understand I often find incorrect or trivial ideas lurking in the thickets of pretentious mathematics. The first detailed section of the book is devoted to MichaelisMenten kinetics, a topic most biochemists are reasonably familiar with, but Schnakenberg's treatment is not illuminating. The general obscurity is partly the result of using unfamiliar (and sometimes undefined) symbolism, and I wonder what advantage J has over v as a symbol for reaction rate, for example. The failure to explain things adequately in the text is more important, as is the number of elementary errors. The second equation in the book is dimensionally inconsistent, and the discussion of the justification for neglecting the reverse reaction in initial-rate studies is wrong. One may neglect it if the product concentration is negligible, or if the relevant rate constant is zero, two possibilities that are completely independent, both logically and in practice: either, both or neither may be true, and knowledge of one tells us nothing about the other; but the author manages to get
by R L P Adams, R H Burden, A M Campbell, D P Leader and R M S Smellie. pp 517. Chapman and Hall, London. 1981. £8.50 (pbk) ISBN 0 - 4 1 2 - 2 2 6 9 0 - 1 The study of nucleic biochemistry has greatly expanded during the time in which the more recent of these nine editions have appeared, to include areas which were initially distinct from the subject, namely microbiology, virology and cell biology. The recent application of nucleic acid biochemistry in genetic engineering and its related disciplines has provided much new material to be taught in undergraduate courses. At the same time the expansion in the treatment of this area of biochemistry in standard textbooks has proceeded, in certain cases, to a high level and recently several useful specialist paperbacks covering important topics (such as genetic engineering) have appeared and are clearly useful teaching material. Does the ninth edition of this book of eminent pedigree stand comparison with competitors in the market? There is no doubt that this book will recommend itself to many, being a one-volume work covering well all aspects of the subject which one would expect to find in undergraduate courses from biosynthesis of nucleic acid precursors through structure and function of nucleic acids to the headier heights of the control of transcription and translation in prokaryotes and eukaryotes (including a brief chapter on the enzymes and techniques employed in recombinant DNA research). The standard of accuracy is very high, references are extensive and the index is good. However the clear wish of the authors to confine their treatment of the subject to one volume does sometimes lead to excessive brevity, and one wonders if the vigorously-enquiring undergraduate (and certainly the research scientist) will be satisfied with the depth of coverage of some of the more topical aspects of this important area of biochemistry. G E Blair