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Book Review BiochemistryЦThe Chemical Reactions of the Living Cell. By D. E. Metzler

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very helpful to readers wishing to familiarize themselves with
theoretical deviations.
The final aim of such studies is to obtain information on
the mechanism of the electrode reactions concerned from
the analysis of the relaxation process. However, the book
is not very helpful in explaining which method is most suitable
for a specific purpose. The techniques are arranged one after
the other without any evaluation. One of the most effective
techniques, the current-pulse method (coulostatic method)
is not even mentioned. Practical examples are rare. The book
is suitable for readers who enjoy clear mathematical derivations and who already have practical experience, or who are
prepared to turn to other sources for advice.
Heinz Gerischer [NB 452 IE]
Biochemistry-The Chemical Reactions of the Living Cell.
By D. E. Metzler. Academic Press, New York 1977, xxxii,
1129 pp., bound, $ 24.95.
The simple anatomical classification of physiological
chemistry-chemistry here, metabolic chains there, and one
or two appended chapters on hormones, body fluids, and
organs--was a historical consequence of its predominantly
medical alignment. General biochemistry appeared as biology
became more and more aware of its chemical basis and the
dynamic nature of the body’s building blocks. It culminated
in the clever idea of Fruton and Simmonds that proteins (as
biocatalysts) should be the central teaching point, with physicochemical considerations and the structure and metabolism
of other biological molecules grouped around them. The more
successful of their followers hardly changed this principle
of a predominantly biological functional point of view, but
chose different aspects to emphasize. Thus, Lehninger made
energetics and Styrer made molecular information the main
theme, while Mahler and Cordes took as their starting point
the physical chemistry of cellular processes. In principle, it
is possible to break down the network of cellular organization
from many aspects. Each of these books, however, set a standard, and any new attempt must be measured against its
predecessors, although as far as the chemist is concerned
they all lack the chemical perspective. A comprehensive textbook, which is intended to lead biochemistry systematically
back to . chemical concepts, will therefore unavoidably be
regarded with critical curiosity.
Such an attempt has now been undertaken by Metzler
with his monumental work, and the goal is impressively well
achieved, for the author not only has available a wide range
of material but is also given authority by his own work in
the field of the transfer from chemical reaction models to
biological catalysis. Since the book is intended for readers
without much basic biological expertise, although it also makes
provision for the biologist, it starts with an introduction to
cellular structure, together with the fundamentals of molecular
energetics and subject-related thermodynamics (all data are
given in SI units). The interactions between biomolecules and
the internal organization of the cell are treated in detail,
and the characteristics of enzyme catalysis are discussed in
relation to the chemical reaction types, which are admittedly
rather limited“]. This knowledge is applied to a detailed description of themetabolic process. Optical analytical techniques
are accommodated in the chapter on photobiology. Nitrogen
metabolism has a chapter to itself; so d o biochemical genetics
[*] In connection with this I recall H . Meerwein’s disapproving comment:
How can you limit your interest to biochemistry if you want to be a proper
chemist? There is an air of monotony about the few reactions that are
found there: water in and water out; hydrogen out and hack in again ...
Keep well away from it. In contrast, how wide-ranging are the possibilities
of synthetic catalysis!
Anyew Chem. l n t . Ed. Engl. 18 (1979) N o . 4
and metabolic homeostasis. At the end of each chapter there
are study questions, some of them never likely to be answered.
The text is very attractively printed and easy ro read, vividly
supplemented by structural and reaction formulas, flowsheets,
and tables; anecdotal information in green-colored boxes
(shown in the same way in the table of contents) is added as
a spice to the basic blend.
It is unavoidable that even a system as well thought out
and consistently applied as this one should have its weaknesses.
For example, it has recently become easier to give a clear
chemical description of the role of selenium in metabolism,
and the reason why the respiration chain phosphorylation
cannot be chemically coupled in the given stoichiometry can
now be given more intelligibly; the principal criticism that
can be raised, however, is that today chemistry is capable
of more than bending electron arrows or perfecting nucleophilic and electrophilic attacks. Chemistry has become a highly
sophisticated extrapolating science, and I can see little sign of
it here. Why, for example, is cobalt suitable as the central
metal of vitamin B12; what is the reason for the structure
of the respiration chain (which has now been largely clarified);
what is the salient point of the chemical osmosis hypothesis
as against the “protonated membrane” hypothesis ; what
requirementsmust be met by a cofactor that takes up electrons
and protons simultaneously but separately; how can we link
molecular motion with the charge distrib.ution? And so it
goes on. But perhaps we are asking too much of a textbook
that is already very extensive; we really need a new medium,
allied to cinematography; words, even symbols, make everything static, two-dimensional, consecutive. However, what is
such nitpicking when applied to an attempt designed on a
grand scale, and in the final analysis so successful, which
also, because of the many and carefully collated literature
references, amounts to far more than a textbook? It would
be wonderful if the book not only met with acclaim among
chemists but were also used by biologists and introduced
them to the chemical foundations of biochemistry. Our comparison of textbooks can be summarized as follows: Stryer
for appearancelehninger for feeling-Metzler for understanding-but there is still no book on biochemistry that
meets all the requirements.
L. Juenicke [NB 460 IE]
Singlet Oxygen, Reactions with Organic Compounds and
Polymers. Edited by B. Rdnby and J . F. Rabek. John Wiley
& Sons, New York, 1978.1st edit., 331 pp., bound, f 15.00.
“Singlet oxygen” (lo2)
is the term used to describe two
short-lived and reactive electronic excitation states of oxygen
(302).
The present book contains 34 papers presented at the
EUCHEM conference on “Singlet Oxygen Reactions with
Polymers”, held in Sodergarn, Sweden, in September 1976.
A historical survey is followed by papers on the properties
of ‘02and on the spectroscopic determination and the deactivation of ‘02species in the gas phase. The greater part
of the book (16 papers, 187 pages) is devoted to the reactions
of ‘02in solution. The kinetics of the formation of ‘02
by energy transfer from electronically excited sensitizers to
302is the main point of two contributions.-BellG gives
an excellent survey on the mechanism and the rate constants
of the deactivation of ‘ 0 2by organic substrates (50 pages).
This topic is further discussed in two other short papers.
Attention should also be drawn to the review by Gollnick
(24 pages) on the reactions of ‘02with organic compounds.
This is followed by ten short papers (76 pages) on the photooxidation of selected compounds.
The last third of the book (14 papers, 114 pages) deals
with the reactions of polymers with ‘02and is introduced
335
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