Eight years ago, when the third edition of Molecular Biology of the Cell appeared, who would have guessed that humans have barely twice as many genes as the simple nematode worm C. elegans ? The latest edition of this textbook has been extensively updated to take into account the complete sequencing of model organism and human genomes.
A new opening chapter, "Cells and genomes", gives students a tangible sense of the impact of comparative genomics on biology and medicine. Information gleaned from the genome projects also provides new material for the remodelled section on "Basic genetic mechanisms". With the list of genes in hand, scientists are challenged to find ways to analyse their expression and function. Some of the latest techniques, such as micro-array and RNA interference, are explained in a new dedicated "Methods" section.
Sections familiar from previous editions, "The internal organisation of the cell" and the aptly titled "Cells in their social context", provide comprehensive coverage of intracellular events and intercellular signalling, respectively. The chapter on the development of multicellular organisms continues to be an excellent introductory text for developmental biologists. Microbiologists will be pleased to find a new chapter on pathogens and infection.
Each copy now also comes with a CD-Rom. Watch an egg cell elegantly transform into a developing zebrafish or beat time to the keratocyte dance - a clip that should win a smile even from reluctant attendees of a 9am lecture!
This new superbly illustrated edition of Molecular Biology of the Cell should ensure that it will maintain its place as a leading undergraduate text and a useful reference for postgraduates.
The companion book, Molecular Biology of the Cell: A Problems Approach , provides questions and problems linked to 17 of the 25 chapters of the main textbook (disappointingly, there is none on intercellular signalling). Many of these, based on research data, have successfully been designed not simply to test factual knowledge but to provoke thought and imagination.
Students who take the time to work through these questions will be rewarded by a deeper understanding of their subject matter and an appreciation of how experimental research provides the information that packs the pages of Molecular Biology of the Cell .
Pauline Phelan is lecturer in cell biology, University of Kent.
Molecular Biology of the Cell. Fourth edition
Author - Bruce Alberts, Alexander Johnson, Julian Lewis, Martin Raff, Keith Roberts and Peter Walter
ISBN - 0 8153 3218 1 and 4072 9
Publisher - Garland
Price - £75.00 and £44.95
Pages - 1,463