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Book Review Catalytic RNA. (Series Nucleic Acids and Molecular Biology. Vol. 10.) Edited by F. Eckstein and D. M. J. Lilley

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BOOKS
Explosive Topics for Specialist and Novice
Catalytic
RNA. (Series: Nucleic
Acids a n d Molecular Biology. Vol.
10.) Edited by E Eckstein and
D. M . J. Lilley. Springer, Berlin, 1996.
41 7 pp., hardcover DM 248.00.-
ISBN 3-540-60795-1
There can scarcely be any other area of
science that has undergone such an explosive phase of development in recent years
as the chemistry and biochemistry of ribonucleic acids. Up to the beginning of
the 1980s the only biopolymers regarded as
having catalytic properties were proteins.
However, the first published reports of
catalytic RNAs stimulated numerous investigations, which have subsequently led
to the identification ofcatalytic RNA motifs in various organisms, and to the development of combinatorial strategies for the
evolution of artificial catalysts. The development of this branch of research has extended the study of biochemical catalysis
to a hitherto unexplored system, provoked speculations about the origins of
life in a prebiotic “RNA world”, and introduced the possibility of some important practical applications.
In Catalytic, R N A , published as Volume
10 of the series Nucleic Acids and Molecular Biology, over 50 recognized experts
have contributed to a comprehensive survey of the current state of research. The
first three chapters are concerned with the
system that served as the historical starting point for this field of research, the selfsplicing group I introns. First there is an
excellent and instructive account of the
structure and mode of action of these ribozymes. The reader is given a sound and
understandable introduction to the subject, including considerations of substrate
recognition, different catalytic strategies,
‘ This section contains book reviews and a list of
new books received by the editor. Book reviews are
written by invitation from the editor. Suggestions
for hooks t o he reviewed and for book reviewers
are welcome Publishers should send brochures or
(better) books to the editorial office. Redaktion
Angewandte Chemie. Postfach 1011 61, D-69451
Weinheim. Germany. The editor reserves the right
of selecting which hooks will he reviewed. Uninvited books not chosen for review will not be returned.
Anxeic.. Chem. l i i r .
Ed Enxl. 1997. 36, No. 9
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and a comparative analysis of mechanisms. This is followed by a discussion of
the dynamics of group I ribozymes, which
have been investigated by fluorescence
spectroscopy, and a lucid summary of
structural data and models for describing
the interactions with different substrates.
Next there come five articles on separate topics: on the interactions of aminoglycoside antibiotics with different RNAs,
on the group I1 introns, which have a wide
variety of catalytic functions, on the ribonuclease P formed from RNA and
protein subunits, on the hairpin ribozyme,
and on circular RNAs.
The largest part of the book is devoted
to the system that is at present the most
thoroughly understood : the hammerhead
ribozyme. The crystal structure of this ribozyme is discussed in detail and compared with the structure determination in
solution. Several articles are devoted to
mechanistic studies by means of chemical
modification. In addition to fundamental
studies of structure and mechanism in this
system, considerable work has been carried out on the use of such molecules for
the control of gene expression. Different
strategies for introducing ribozymes into
cells and organisms are described, as also
are approaches for using ribozymes to inhibit HIV replication. Ribozymes and antisense RNA in fungi are discussed. The
volume ends with two articles on in vitro
selection of artificial ribozymes, comparing the two different procedures used:
direct selection and selection against transition state analogs. These recent studies
are especially interesting to chemists, as
they offer the possibility of developing tailored catalysts.
The editors have succeeded in putting
together an excellent and well-integrated
work. Most of the chapters are thorough
and detailed review articles of an excellent
didactic standard, and can usefully be
read by newcomers to the field as well as
by specialists. The figures are of high
quality, some in color, and are a valuable
aid to the reader’s understanding. The
high standard of the work is also maintained in the well chosen and up-to-date
literature references. The long section on
the hammerhead ribozyme contains some
unavoidable repetition and overlapping
VCH Verlaggesell.schaf! m h H , 0-69451 Weinheim.1997
of subject matter; however, this has the
advantage that these chapters are selfcontained and can be read independently.
A work such as this, reviewing progress
in a rapidly advancing field, is inevitably a
snapshot of the situation, and in the short
time since the publication deadline some
further new and interesting facets have
appeared. The volume can be thoroughly
recommended, both as an introduction
and for a more detailed study to gain a
thorough understanding of the subject.
Every biochemistry library should have a
copy. I strongly recommend not only
bioorganic chemists but also others working in interdisciplinary areas between
chemistry and the biosciences to read this
book.
Andres Jaschke
Institut fur Biochemie
der Freien Universitat Berlin
(Germany)
Crop Protection Agents from Nature.
Natural Products and Analogues. Edited by L. G. Copping. Royal Society,
London, 1996. 501 pp., hardcover
E 129.50.-ISBN 0-85404-414-0
Plant protection is essential. That cannot be denied by any serious person with
a responsible attitude towards ensuring
that agricultural products are available in
the required amounts and quality for
feeding a population of 5 billion. During
the past 50 years we have all become accustomed to the very good and reliable
supply of food that has been made possible by modern high-yielding agriculture.
However, it is now no longer generally
appreciated that the increase in efficiency,
which is quite amazing from a historical
standpoint, has largely been achieved
through the use of chemical crop protection agents. Instead, public attitudes are
now focussed not on the benefits but almost exclusively on the risks. The demand
for limiting the use of plant protection
chemicals has led to a large number of
regulatory controls, prohibitions, and restrictions on innovation. The problem of
protecting plant crops against other organisms (fungi, insects, weeds, etc.) still
remains, and therefore research on new
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