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Biochemistry & Molecular Biology of Plants

Review from Society of Experimental Biology Bulletin

This is a huge and impressive book: 1367 pages packed full of well illustrated and well organised information. The book is edited by Buchanan, Gruissem and Jones with the backing of the American Society of Plant Physiologists and contains the contributions from 53 plant scientists that have been edited to a largely consistent style. The book was originally conceived as a continuation of the resource provided by the earlier and successful Plant Biochemistry (Bonner and Varner). A comparison of the two texts, since I suspect that Plant Biochemistry may still reside on many shelves, highlights the impressive progress that has been made in plant physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology over the last 30 years or so. This book goes well beyond the standard biochemistry approach and successfully integrates these different levels of plant biology.

The book is organised into five major sections: cellular compartments (includes membranes, transport and protein sorting); cell reproduction (from nucleic acids and protein synthesis to cell division); energy flow (photosynthesis, respiration and carbohydrates); metabolic and developmental integration (includes long-distance transport, hormones, signaling and senescence); and plant environment and agriculture. I found the last section particularly welcome and felt that the authors have achieved excellent results in conveying the exciting nature of current research in these areas; the section covers plant responses to pathogens, abiotic stress, mineral acquisition and utilization, and natural products (secondary metabolites).

This is an excellent book although I was left a little uncertain as to its intended readership. I assume that it is aimed at advanced students and professional workers in the plant sciences, both pure and applied. In the UK, it will be a valuable resource for undergraduate students. However in many universities plant cell and molecular biology is taught as part of integrated biochemistry and cell biology courses. A good deal of the basic biochemistry and molecular biology included in this text is already available in well-established and largely animal-orientated texts, although here plant examples are used whenever possible. Thus its size and cost may make it difficult to compete in a wider undergraduate market that is already well served by a number of excellent texts. One approach that might be considered would be to make the main sections available separately for use in specialised courses.

John Hall
University of Southampton

Reprinted from Society for Experimental Biology Bulletin


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