Lecture Notes on Biochemistry

Lecture Notes on Biochemistry

185 Essentials of Bio-organic Chemistry by R W H a n s o n . p p 208. E d w a r d A r n o l d , L o n d o n . 1984. £6.95 ( p a p e r b a c k ) ISBN ...

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Essentials of Bio-organic Chemistry by R W H a n s o n . p p 208. E d w a r d A r n o l d , L o n d o n . 1984. £6.95 ( p a p e r b a c k ) ISBN 0-7131-3500-X In the preface to this book it is stated that "it is imperative for students for biological subjects to have a sound knowledge of organic chemistry. Unfortunately, this fact is not evident to many students at the beginning of their course . . ." This book is an attempt to put this right. I cannot deny the truth of the above statements, but I suspect that many students would find this book difficult to use in relation to their systematic biology or biochemistry texts. For example, a whole page table listing 'some compounds of biological interest which contain functional groups of the type = C - X' (p 59), for example, could be less than rivetting. Some of the sections, such as that in which the action of enzymes is explained, were well done, I thought, although one might find a better account, and certainly better diagrams, in Stryer or Metzler. Indeed in general some of the American biochemistry texts, including Rawn for all its misprints, deals with chemistry in relation to biochemistry in a much more satisfactory way. The author laments the fact that biochemists do not always use rigorous nomenclature (by chemists' standards), but eventually is forced to descend to trivial names himself. Biochemists would be irritated to find N A D P described as the "phosphate derivative of N A D " , and fructose 1,6-diphosphate is used in preference to fructose 1,6-bisphosphate. In addition there are quite a lot of typographical errors. The main chapters deal with chemical bonding (as it applies to organic compounds), reactions, functional groups of interest in biochemical systems, stereochemistry, enzymes and lastly, coenzymes. An indication of the randomness at which topics appear (in comparison with the systematic approach in biochemistry texts), is that the very last paragraph of the book is on coenzyme A. Although many of the examples used in the book are drawn from biochemistry, many are not. A number of pages are devoted to benzene chemistry, but the opportunity is missed to go on to talk about the general phenomenon of aromaticity in relation to heterocyclic compounds, which tend to be much more important in biological systems for very good (chemical) reasons. My overall impression is that the very bright student, who did indeed see the need for a sound understanding of organic chemistry as expressed in the first two paragraphs of this review, may find this book useful. Others, less enthusiastic about things would not get very far with it before being turned off. Ivor Watkins

Lecture Notes on Biochemistry by J K C a n d l i s h . p p 290. B l a c k w e l l , O x f o r d . £9.80. 1984 ISBN 0-632-01253-6 It is always exciting to open a new textbook of biochemistry. However my immediate feeling was of dismay to read the author's avowed aim: that 'understanding' is not neglected, but is here subordinated to the presentation of readily reproducible facts. If that were my view, which it is not, I would feel that I had wasted the last twenty-six years of my life. Like the curate's egg let us consider the bad parts first: errors of fact or typography. A divalent N in the purine ring (p 3), CH3 - - called a methine bridge (p 16), only the much-criticised Lineweaver-Burk plot is introduced as an alternative to the Michaelis-Menten curve. Vm~× is presented many times as almost touching the velocity curve (though the text does refer to 'the asymptotic nature of the curve' but without defining it), AG °1 had me puzzled briefly (p 49, 51), sucrase hydrolyses


sucrose p 74 (I always thought that water hydrolysed compounds), aspirin is hydrolysed by an esterase (p 265), glutathione is labelled as a-glutamyl yet the formula is correct (p 90), diglucuromide (p 102), asparatate (p 131), the list of essential amino acids for man is wrong, it is that for the growing rat! Glucose 6-phosphatase in the Index (p 287). All evidence of very sloppy proof-reading. Sadly the author ignores internationally-agreed nomenclature. So we have a-ketoglutarate throughout (oxygen is the substitutent not the keto group hence a-oxoglutarate or 2-oxoglutarate). It was irritating to see N A D 2 H on p 51. One senior examiner I knew would ask at the viva of any candidate who wrote that in an answer script: "Please write the chemical structure of that". Fructose 1,6-diphosphate is now out of date. Apart from the formulae for the t,- and D-forms of alanine (p 13) the importance of the l,-isomers mammalian and human metabolism is almost totally ignored throughout. One Figure purports to be a 'Bird's eye view of amino acid metabolism' (p 98) yet is apparently referring to mammals. The out-moded division into glucogenic and ketogenic amino acids is included. In common with so many textbooks the tricarboxylic acid cycle (p 59) does not show how phosphoenolpyruvate (phosphoenopyruvate on p 70) can be reformed from pyruvate via pyruvate carboxylase and PEP carboxykinase. Thus the tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates seem to circulate eternally like some neverending carousel. The t,-alanine-pyruvate cycle of Felig is disposed of in five lines (p 74) yet the "y-glutamyl cycle is included (p 90) but not in the Index. The author seems to he obsessed by listing things: 'ten formulae, the rock-bottom basic set', later including CI as an important element in life but omitting P. On the credit side, many of the metabolic maps and formulae have been carefully thought out and clearly presented. However some pages were 'fuzzy' in my review copy. I feel sad to write so harshly of an author's great efforts. He admits that the textbook is a crammer. I can only envisage a candidate having digested his Stryer and Newsholme and Leech (for metabolism) during his course flicking through Candlish just before an examination to refresh his memory but at the danger of trying to memorize a mass of indigestible facts, surely a council of disaster. Derek F E v e r e d

Essays in Biochemistry Volume 20 E d i t e d by P N C a m p b e l l a n d R D M a r s h a l l . p p 176. A c a d e m i c Press, O r l a n d o , F l o r i d a , for T h e B i o c h e m i c a l Society. 1985. £13.50 ISBN 0-12-158120-9 The latest volume of "Essays" contains four articles and the spread of interest is from the biological/physiological to the molecular biological. All biochemists will find something of interest. Knowles and Beaumont contribute a useful, comprehensive and well-written article on The Mechanism of Oestrogen Action. The list of references is exceedingly comprehensive too (244), but it may be noted that by printing them in a smaller type face (and including the titles) this does not take up too much space. Mucous glycoproteins (subtitled "a Gel of a Problem") gives a tantalizing glimpse of what (what little?) we know about these very important but rather intractable substances. The review is useful, but would have been more so with a few more pictures (eg electron micrographs, referred to, but not shown), and the section on the use of physical techniques is cautionary but doesn't really give much information. One is left admiring the courage of biochemists prepared to 'have a go' at these types of molecules however. The formation of multinucleated skeletal fibres is one of the more spectacular examples of terminal differentiation as Margaret Buckingham points out in her authoritative review entitled