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Book Review Essential Molecular Biology. A Practical Approach. Vols. 1 and 2. (The Practical Approach Series.) Edited by T. A. Brown

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The first part is divided into six chapters. The first of these
gives a brief summary of the conventional methods of nucleoside synthesis, including the Hilbert-Johnson method,
the Fischer-Helferich method, and the fusion and nitromethane methods. Transglycosylation reactions are also briefly
discussed. Surprisingly, however, there is no mention of another modern method whereby the glycosidic linkage is
formed from the aromatic heterocycle and the carbohydrate
component by a phase transfer reaction in the presence of a
base; this is one of the few methods that does not require the
use of metal halides as catalysts, which is a crucially important advantage for analogues that are to be used in biological
systems. The yields are no worse than with the silyl method.
Chapter 1 ends with some examples of nucleoside syntheses
in which the heterocycle is built up from N-glycosylated
carbohydrates. Chapter 2 introduces the method using glycosylation of silylated heterocyclic arenes. First the reagents
used for the silylation of the heterocycle are described, followed by a detailed discussion of the possible reaction mechanisms. From this it quickly becomes apparent that the
method is closely related to the Hilbert-Johnson method.
The mechanisms are also considered from the standpoint of
reactions using carbohydrate derivatives (halogenoses on
p. 32, and I-0-acyloxy- and 1-0-alkyloxy sugars on p. 39).
The influences of solvent and of catalyst (e.g., AICl,, TiCl,,
SnCI,, or trimethylsilyltriflate, p. 41) are discussed, as also
are the effects of substituents in the heterocycle with regard
to the a/b anomer ratio of the glycosidic linkage and the
reaction yield. The advantages of the silyl method compared
with the conventional glycosylation methods are also explained. Chapter 3 describes various syntheses that lead to
modified pyrimidine nucleosides and their aza and deaza
analogues, and discusses the factors influencing them. Chapter 4 then gives corresponding data for nucleosides formed
from bicyclic heteroarenes, and also deals with the purine
nucleosides and their N-isomers. Chapter 5 contains a detailed description of nucleosides derived from other heterocyclic bases. These latter three chapters use selected examples to discuss all the factors that influence the course of the
reaction. For example, pages 58 and 59 summarize, in the
form of text and tables, data on the reaction of a P-D-gIUcopyranosyl bromide with 2,4-bis(trimethylsilyl)thymineunder nine different sets of reaction conditions. Also reactions
performed by the silyl method are frequently compared with
the conventional methods (e.g., on p. 59). In the glycosylation of bicyclic N-heteroarenes (Chapters4 and 5 ) one is
interested in controlling not only the anomeric configuration
but also the regioselectivity in relation to the nitrogen atom
of the heterocycle. Ways of achieving this are described using
various examples (e.g., p. 174). Chapter 6 adds a brief discussion of methods for synthesizing nucleotides.
I feel that the usefulness of the book could have been
improved by a clearer subdivision of the material. It would
have been desirable to make a clear distinction between nucleosides containing only a pyrimidine ring and those containing only a purine ring, and to have one chapter dealing
with aza, deaza, and N-isomeric analogues of pyrimidine and
purine nucleosides (see Sections 3.8 and 3.9, and Sections 4.2
to 4.8). together with nucleoside analogues derived from
other heterocyclic bases.
The authors have succeeded in their aim of presenting an
overview of this variant of the glycosylation method, which
has now come very much into favor because it is easy to carry
out. This easily readable and well illustrated book is a worthwhile purchase for everyone concerned with the synthesis of
nucleoside analogues, as it contains a useful and remarkably
comprehensive collection of data on the silyl method. ReAngew. Chein. Int. Ed. Engl. 1992, 3 1 , No. 8
grettably, however, the astronomically high price will mean
that it reaches only a limited readership.
Chris Meier
Institut fur Organische Chemie
der Universitat Frankfurt am Main (FRG)
Essential Molecular Biology. A Practical Approach. Vols. 1
and 2. (The Practical Approach Series.) Edited by T A .
Brown. IRL Press at Oxford University Press, Oxford,
1991. Vol. 1 : XIX, 299 pp., paperback L 22.50.-ISBN 019-963111-7; Vol. 2: XX, 296 pp., paperback L 22.50.ISBN 0-19-963113-1
The rapid advances that have occurred in the techniques
of molecular biology during the last decade have brought
about a quantum leap in virtually every biologically-orientated area of research, especially since the basic techniques of
cloning can, in principle, be mastered by anyone. Consequently, there is now a wide and growing demand for introductory
textbooks on molecular biological methods that are experimentally orientated and easily understandable. Alongside
“Maniatis”, the excellently written and well-proven standard work in this field, a crop of new textbooks and manuals
is now springing up like mushrooms. The continuing rapid
pace of progress, which is also apparent from the growing
number of new or modified reagents and techniques, means
that these publications will soon become outdated.
In the two volumes reviewed here, which belong to the
successful “Practical Approach” series on modern techniques
of bioscience, the editor offers another introduction to practical methods in molecular biology, aimed at beginners and
non-specialists. Volume 1 (“Molecular Cloning”) explains
the underlying principles and the basic techniques needed for
carrying out experiments on DNA cloning. These include
microbiological techniques for handling bacteria and phages,
methods for purifying DNA and RNA, analytical and
preparative methods for electrophoretic separation of nucleic acids, and procedures for generating, transforming, and
selecting recombinant DNA using suitable combinations of
cloning vectors and host bacteria. Building on this groundwork, Volume 2 (“Recombinant DNA”) gives a comprehensive description of the relevant procedures for genome analysis. After describing the preparation of gene banks in
lambda and cosmid vectors or in the form of cDNA, an
account is given of the techniques commonly used for investigating the structure of a cloned gene; these include identification by labeling, immobilization, and hybridization of the
nucleic acid, multiplication by means of the polymerase
chain reaction (PCR), and DNA sequencing by the didesoxy
method. Lastly the volume explains procedures for investigating the cellular expression by DNA-protein interactions
or RNA transcript analysis.
The background knowledge and practical advice on experimental procedures is generally presented in such a straightforward and detailed way that even lay readers will understand the basis of the techniques, what they aim to achieve,
and how they can be adapted to design appropriate experiments for individual scientific problems. Also in many cases
the reader is referred to more advanced or specialized techniques. Finally, the beginner will benefit from the valuable
expert advice regarding the most suitable materials to work
with, and especially from the detailed troubleshooting guidance, since locating potential sources of error often presents
difficulties for the inexperienced. Each chapter concludes
Verlu~sgessellschaftmbH. W-6940 Weinherm, 1992
0570-0833/92/0808-1099$3.50+ .2Sj0
A picture tells more than a thousand words-this old saying
applies especially to “do-it-yourself’ introductions aimed at
a general readership. Comparing these two volumes with the
standard that has been set by “Maniatis” reveals their only
serious weakness, namely that figures and sketches are rather
infrequent. For example, a reaction sequence involving a
steplike or flush scission of DNA is conveyed so much more
clearly and succinctly by a small reaction scheme diagram
than by a description in words alone, even when the latter
uses very descriptive technical terms such as “sticky end”
and “blunt end”!
To summarize, these volumes live up to their claim that the
reader with no previous experience is led step by step, by
means of easily understandable introductory explanations
and exact detailed descriptions, into a fascinating new world
of experimentation. At this affordable price, therefore, Volume 1 can be recommended for both students and teachers as
an accompaniment to a technique-orientated practical course
(subject to the reservation mentioned above regarding the
scanty provision of diagrams). The two-volume set is recommended for everyone who wishes to become familiar with the
experimental methods of recombinant DNA work-and
who finds “Maniatis” too expensive or too unwieldy.
Wolf-Dieter Fessner, Matthias Dreyer
Institut fur Organische Chemie und Biochemie
der Universitat Freiburg (FRG)
with a detailed and well-balanced list of references to more
advanced literature.
Apart from the variations in level of treatment and amount
of detail that are usual in a multi-author work, the presentation of the subject matter is commendably thorough. Also,
from 1991 the volumes in this series have changed their appearance: the layout has been considerably altered to
provide a better subdivision of the material and improved
clarity. Important statements in the text are shown with emphasis. Experimental procedures are clearly separated from
the rest of the text; each includes a list of the materials and
reagents needed, safety precautions, cross-references to other related procedures in the same volume, and useful hints
regarding special circumstances.
The appendices include a list of some important E. coli
host strains, culture and buffer media, DNA- and RNAmodifying enzymes, restriction patterns for individual vectors, and addresses of commercial suppliers (although these
do not always include those of the parent companies). The
appendix listing the various safety points connected with
work in molecular biology is far too brief to be useful. In
contrast to this, there is an excellent appendix containing
general information on essential laboratory equipment; this
will be especially valuable in helping those who must first
decide whether or not their research environment is adequate
to allow experimental work in molecular biology.
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Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 1992, 31, No. 8
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practical, essential, molecular, book, approach, series, edited, brown, biologya, vols, review
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