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Biochemistry & Molecular Biology of Plants

Review from INFORM

When I received a copy of this book last month and started thumbing through it, I realized its potential value to numerous inform readers and I decided to document some of my reasons for this enthusiasm. This sizable book has 24 chapters, each authored by one or more international experts. It is a very comprehensive undertaking, intended for both teaching and reference. The color photography and illustrations are out-standing and are found on almost every page. A CD-ROM of all the illustrative information in the book is available separately. Six of the chapters contain information that deals with plant lipids and lipid biochemistry and metabolism. Although the remaining 18 chapters are also accurate and valuable, the scope of this review will be limited to those chapters containing information about plant lipids.

One chapter is devoted entirely to plant lipids (71 pages in length), and is authored by four leaders in the field of plant glycerolipid biochemistry and molecular biology: Chris Somerville (Carnegie Institution at Stanford), John Browse (Washington State University), Jan Jaworski (Miami University), and John Ohlrogge (Michigan State University). The chapter is divided into 11 sections: the structure and function of lipids, fatty acid biosynthesis, acetyl-CoA carboxylase, fatty acid synthase, desaturation and elongation of C16 and C18 fatty acids, synthesis of unusual fatty acids, synthesis of membrane lipids, function of membrane lipids, synthesis and function of structural lipids, synthesis and catabolism of storage lipids, and genetic engineering of lipids. The chapter focuses on the various types of glycerolipids (including triacylglycerols, phospholipids, and galactolipids) and does this very well. The coverage on the genetic engineering of plant lipids is very up-to-date and should prove very valuable to oil chemists who need to be able to understand and comment on the current status of this exciting field. Although the chapter mentions some of the functional properties of the major categories of lipids other than glycerolipids (carotenoids, phytosterols, sphingolipids, and tocopherols), it does not provide any structural or biochemical details. Later chapters in the book include excellent structural and biosynthetic details about carotenoids, phytosterols, and sphingolipids.

The chapter entitled "Membrane Structure and Membranous Organelles" includes details about the lipid composition of several plant organelle membranes. It incorporates a well-illustrated description of the fluid mosaic model of the membrane bilayer, including the structural uniqueness of plant phospholipids, phytosterols, and sphingolipids. There is also an excellent presentation of phosphatidylinositol-anchored proteins, fatty acid-anchored proteins, and prenyl lipid-anchored proteins. The unique lipid compositions of plant plasma membranes, mitochondria, and chloroplasts are presented. The ultrastructure of oil bodies in triacylglycerol-rich plant tissues is presented, including a description of the unique monolayer nature of the oil bodies and the probable involvement of oleosin proteins in maintaining the spherical structure of oil bodies. The function of glyoxysomes (a specialized type of peroxisome found in germinating oilseeds) in breaking down fatty acids during seed germination via the enzymatic steps of ß-oxidation and the glyoxylate cycle is described accurately. The chapter includes a clear description of the important biosynthetic role of chloroplasts and other types of plastids in synthesizing chlorophylls, carotenoids and fatty acids.

The chapter on photosynthesis provides detailed structural descriptions of the various chlorophylls and carotenoids, and their biosynthetic pathways.

The chapter on plant hormones and elicitors includes descriptions of the terpenoid biosynthetic pathway that leads to gibberellins (derived from geranyl-geranyl diphosphate), brassinosteroids (derived from campesterol), and abscisic acid (derived from carotenoids). I was surprised and pleased to find in this chapter the detailed biosynthetic pathways for the major carotenoids and phytosterols, as well as a collection of the structures of the major carotenoids and phytosterols. This chapter includes a detailed description of the jasmonic acid biosynthetic pathway, which starts with a-linolenic acid and includes a step catalyzed by a unique lipoxygenase. The role of jasmonic acid in defense reactions in some plants is described in a later chapter, "Responses to Plant Pathogens."

The chapter entitled "Signal Perception and Transduction" includes a description of how one form of plant signal transduction involves a unique class of phospholipase C enzymes that can selectively hydrolyze phosphatidylinositol-4,5-diphosphate (PIP2), yielding two products, diacylglycerol (DAG) "and inositol-l,4,5-triphosphate (IP3). In animal cells, both of these products activate downstream signaling components. In plants, a signaling role has been demonstrated for IP3)., but the signaling role for DAG has not yet been established. Evidence that also implicates possible signaling roles for phospholipase A2 and phospholipase D in plants also is presented.

The chapter on natural products includes a detailed description of the structures and biosynthetic pathways of various types of terpenes [mono-, sesqui(1 and 1/2)-, di-, tri-, and tetraterpenes]. Some of this is a reiteration of the pathways discussed in Chapter 17, but the focus there was on the plant hormone terpenes. Pathways for the modification of terpenoid skeletons to triterpene alcohols (e.g., cycloartenol), essential oils (e.g., limonene), taxols, and steroidal glycosides are presented. This chapter also contains a thorough structural and biosynthetic description of the various types of plant phenolic compounds and flavonoids, many of which are of interest to oil chemists because of their valuable antioxidant properties in wines and other foods.

My only suggestion for future editions of this text is to recommend adding more structural and biosynthetic information about tocopherols and tocotrienols, since these are very important plant lipids and antioxidants. The only technical inaccuracy noticed by this reviewer was a misspelling of "campesterol" on page 5, a sin that is forgivable even though campesterol is one of this reviewer's favorite lipids.

In conclusion, this text is comprehensive, authoritative, and contemporary. It will serve as a valuable reference tool to all oil chemists who deal with plant lipids or who need up-to-date information about other topics in plant biochemistry and physiology. Its other main goal-that of serving as a textbook-has also been achieved admirably. It would be most suitable for graduate-level courses, as it assumes prior knowledge of general biochemistry. The accompanying CD-ROM should also prove to be a valuable illustrative aid to anyone who has a need to present technical information about plant lipids. Although the book is available in both soft- and hardbound editions, it is my opinion that for persons who anticipate frequent use of this book as a reference tool, the increased durability of the latter justifies its higher price.

Robert A. Moreau
Eastern Regional Research Center
USDA Agricultural Research Service
Wyndmoor, PA


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