Primary processes of photosynthesis: Principles and apparatus

Primary processes of photosynthesis: Principles and apparatus

Gernot Renger (ed)

Cambridge, UK: RSC Publishing 2008 | 1088 pages| ?339.00 (two volumes) (HB) ISBN 9780854043644

Reviewed by Bob Brown

The editor’s preface to this pair of volumes, which concentrate on the primary processes in photosynthesis, asks the very pertinent question as to why, given that there is a goodly number of photosynthesis books already published, another pair are appropriate? The answer given is ’.the enormous progress achieved in molecular biology and x-ray diffraction crystallography of membrane proteins during the last two decades, which has enabled, in combination with developments of sophisticated spectroscopic methods of very high time resolution, much deeper insight into the mechanisms and structure of the [photosynthetic] apparatus.’ and that ’.significant advances in the methodology of theory (quantum chemistry, molecular mechanics) offer a new basis for a better understanding of structure-function relationships.’.  

Do these volumes reflect those criteria? Emphatically yes. The vast majority of volume two (12 chapters) and most of volume one (10 chapters) review this recent work. The contributing authors are to be congratulated on meeting their remit so well - indeed the RSC, the series editors and Gernot Renger are also to be congratulated on the quality of the panel of 42 that have contributed to this work. 

Inevitably, there needs to be some scene-setting, and this is undertaken in the early chapters, with a very readable overview by Renger, a chapter on light absorption and electronic energy and electron transfer, and chapters on the chlorophylls and carotenoids. The second of these went rather further into the quantum mechanical theory than I would have thought necessary and the content could have been subsumed elsewhere, but the emphasis on state-of-the-art techniques and results was already evident in these initial chapters. 

The rest of the content of the two volumes mainly falls into three categories: antenna systems, photosystems and reaction centres and electron transport/phosphorylation. These are well-established sub-divisions and serve their purpose perfectly well. The chapters on Photosystems I and II were of particular interest and made very interesting reading, although there was less mention of the fast and ultrafast fluorescence and absorption spectroscopy of PSI than I would have expected. This is a minor criticism because the impression throughout is of internationally-respected authors writing on subjects with which they are completely familiar and current.  

The two books include a very comprehensive subject index but no list of authors of cited papers. I accept that several thousand papers were cited, but I would certainly have appreciated an author list.  

At ?330 for the pair, I doubt that too many individuals will purchase these volumes, but they will be invaluable reference for years to come and no good science library will be without them.