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Cell Membrane. The Red Blood Cell as a Model. By Yoshihito Yawata

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Biophysical Chemistry—
Membranes and Proteins
Edited by
Richard H. Templer
and Robin Leatherbarrow. Royal Society of Chemistry,
Cambridge 2003. x
+ 280 pp., hardcover £ 89.50.—
ISBN 0-85404-851-0
The title Biophysical Chemistry sounds
very interesting when it carries the
subtitle Membranes and Proteins, and
promises a broad overview in just under
300 pages. But then the experienced
reader will probably become suspicious:
membranes and proteins in 300
pages!—it must be very concisely written and well organized to give an indepth survey of such a wide subject
within that space. In fact, however,
proteins with membranes is a promising
combination, since many important proteins are actually membrane proteins,
and therefore the reader might expect
that the interest will be focused on the
“physicochemical” viewpoint rather
than the purely “biological” or “chemical”.
The verdict can be summarized at
the outset: the above hope is not fulfilled. That already becomes evident
when one reads the brief description of
the contents on the back of the dustcover: “Bringing together contributions
from physicists, biologists and chemists,
this book demonstrates how multidisciplinary teams can work together to gain
insights into understanding complex
biological systems.” Then the preface
confirms the suspicion already in the
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2003, 42, 5541 – 5542
mind of the experienced reader: the
book is not an “organized” (i.e., structured and textbook-style) work, but a
collection of short articles by various
authors. In fact it is a compilation of
papers from the Conference on Biophysical Chemistry held in London in
The contents are arranged under the
same two headings as in the above
conference: “Probing Biological Molecules: Theory and Experiment” and
“Proteins, Lipids and their Interactions”. There are 25 chapters altogether,
and thus their average length is 12 pages.
Inevitably, the individual chapters vary
in quality. The authors of some chapters,
including Chapter 3 (“Probing Cellular
Structure and Function by Atomic Force
Microscopy”), Chapter 5 (“Probing
Immune Synapses”, Chapter 10 on
transerythrin, and Chapter 10 on lysozyme, give very good surveys of their
fields, concentrating on the general
picture, with less emphasis on the
author's special area of research. However, almost all the other authors limit
their reports to their own research
topics, which are usually very narrowly
defined. To some extent one gets the
impression in such cases that the chapter
title is just a description of the author's
own area of research. Here one has to
reproach the editors: they should have
explained to the authors at the outset
what kind of article they were expected
to write, whether a review (which should
be comprehensive) or an account of
their own research. In the event the
impression is that too much has been
collected together in too little space.
The book can only be recommended
for specialists in the theoretical or biophysical fields, and for these it is certainly an interesting account from a
conference that they were unable to
attend due to a lack of time. It is not
recommended for non-specialists or for
readers who are seeking a general overview of the field—it is too specialized
for that purpose. It should have been
made clear in the brief description of the
book that it is a collection of contributions from a conference, which would
have been more honest towards potential readers. On the other hand, it has to
be said that the book also does not claim
to have been written for non-specialists.
However, it fails to live up to the
promise on the back cover that the
contents include “membrane structure
and interaction; channels and receptors” and that it is “full of stimulating
articles and opinions, readers from academia and industry will welcome the
wide range of coverage and the state-ofthe-art science”.
Wolfgang Binder
Institut f*r Angewandte Synthesechemie
Technische Universit/t Wien (Austria)
Cell Membrane
The Red Blood Cell
as a Model. By
Yoshihito Yawata.
Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2003. xvi +
438 pp., hardcover
E 149.00.—ISBN
The membrane of erythrocytes is one of
the most thoroughly studied membrane
systems, and a vast amount of information has been collected within the last
few decades. But even if every last detail
of the structure and function of the red
blood cell membrane is eventually
understood, the model will remain
useful as a starting point for the study
of other more complex membrane-protein cytoskeletal systems. Thus, it is
certainly worthwhile to summarize the
achievements in this field of science, and
that is what Professor Yawata has done
with great care in his monograph.
The author was Professor of Medicine at Kawasaki Medical School and is
a recognized expert in the research field
of erythrocyte membranes. He was first
introduced to red cell membranes in the
early 1970s during his stay at the University of Minnesota Medical School
Harry S. Jacob proposed the theory
that red cell membrane disorders are
caused by abnormalities of membrane
proteins. Exactly at that time the meth-
8 2003 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
odology of SDS–PAGE was first published, which enabled red cell membrane proteins to be completely solubilized and separated. Professor Yawata's
expertise in this field, acquired over
more than 30 years, is evident throughout the book, and in particular in the
first chapter entitled “History of red cell
membrane research”. Reading this
chapter reminds one of all the untiring
efforts of investigators to understand the
different constituents of the erythrocyte
membrane and their role in certain
Chapter 2 then gives an overview
about the constituents of the red cell
membrane, and serves as an introduction for readers who are not familiar
with this field of research. Here the
reader is also introduced to some
aspects of lipids, membrane proteins,
and their function, and learns how these
are related to the morphology and shape
of the red cells. The interested reader
will also find a collection of data about
the cell membrane's composition, concentrations within the erythrocyte, etc.,
information that would be tedious to
find elsewhere. After presenting some
insights into the stereotactic structure of
red cell membranes, the next three
chapters cover the erythrocyte proteins,
namely the skeletal, integral, and
anchoring proteins. In conjunction with
a chapter dealing with integral proteins,
the different blood group systems are
discussed in great detail. From page 165
to the end, Professor Yawata addresses
the aspects of disease states of red cell
membranes from their genotypes to
phenotypes. As a starting point, Chapter 7 discusses the membrane morphogenesis in erythroid cells. Four chapters
discuss the diseases of hereditary spherocytosis, elliptocytosis, stomatocytosis,
and acanthocytosis, then the following
four chapters summarize present knowledge about abnormalities of the protein
and lipid constituents of the red cell
membrane. The book reviews the relevant results, especially those about
pathological conditions, and mutations
that are pathognomonic for the disease
states that have been precisely identified, and also describes the characteristics of their phenotypes. Thus it is a
comprehensive and up-to-date source of
knowledge in this area.
Although the book contains a huge
amount of information, the good organization makes it readily accessible. The
chapters can be read separately, and the
clear and systematic division into subchapters, together with the extensive
index, makes it easy to find a specific
topic. If the reader is not completely
satisfied with the information provided,
the up-to-date references provided con-
8 2003 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
sistently throughout the text give easy
access to more details in the literature.
However, the illustrations are sometimes less helpful. It would have been
desirable to include more descriptive
illustrations rather than confining them
mainly to electron microscopy images,
which are certainly intriguing but partly
In conclusion, this book is unique
and can serve as a compendium for
those who are already working in this
field of science, and as a valuable
introduction for newcomers. One
should, however, keep in mind that the
book is written from a medical and
biological viewpoint of the cell membrane. Biophysicists will probably be
disappointed that certain aspects of the
cell membrane are not covered, and this
is why the title Cell Membrane might be
misleading, as the monograph is specifically concerned with the red cell membrane, with particular emphasis on the
red blood cell membrane skeleton and
diseases, rather than with the cell membrane in general.
Claudia Steinem
Institut f*r Analytische Chemie, Chemound Biosensorik
Universit/t Regensburg (Germany)
DOI: 10.1002/anie.200385029
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2003, 42, 5541 – 5542
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mode, red, membranes, yawata, blood, cells, yoshihito
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