The organic chemistry of biological pathways

The organic chemistry of biological pathways 
John McMurry and Tadhg Begley
Greenwood Village, US: Roberts | 2004 | 512pp | ?35.00 (HB) | ISBN 0974707716
Reviewed by Paul Comina

This book provides a useful link between core organic chemistry and fundamental knowledge of important biological processes. 

Aimed predominantly at advanced (third/fourth year) undergraduate students, the text presents well-explained and well-visualised discussions of the mechanisms of biological metabolism and synthesis, using the mechanistic language of organic chemistry.   

After a basic revision of key organic and biochemical terms, the meat of the book describes firstly the metabolism, and secondly the biosynthesis of important biological building blocks from lipids to amino acids, carbohydrates and nucleotides. 

The emphasis throughout is to highlight the links between what you know of mechanisms as an organic chemist, with the biological systems that are being discussed. The chapter on the biosynthesis of different natural products, including penicillins and the prostaglandins, and co-enzyme B12, should be of general interest to any organic chemist. 

To bring together the common mechanistic themes of the book, McMurry and Begley conclude with a chapter summarising biological processes by reaction class. This links, for example, the role of oxidation , reduction, or hydroxylation across several different metabolic pathways, rather than concentrating on the complete metabolic/biosynthetic pathway as the previous chapters do. This helps to emphasise how a solid understanding of the fundamentals of organic mechanism can be applied to any example of synthesis, be it biosynthesis or laboratory synthesis.   

For a practising synthetic organic chemist who finds the prospect of venturing into more biological organic chemistry a little daunting, this book provides a useful means of bridging the gap.