Molecular and cellular biophysics

Molecular and cellular biophysics 

Meyer Jackson 

Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 2006 | 512pp | ?35 (SB) ISBN 0521624703 

Reviewed by Jeremy Craven 

Although Meyer Jackson claims that this book is aimed at advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students, I think it would be a valuable addition to the library of any research lab at the physical end of biochemistry.  

The first two thirds of the book contain chapters with general topics familiar from biochemistry textbooks, such as molecular forces, molecular associations, and enzyme catalysis. These are all treated with a satisfying depth of physical insight and, where necessary, mathematical rigour.  

The final third of the book comprises chapters that are unashamedly from the author’s own research field, namely membranes and ion channels (hence the ’cellular’ in the title). Those chapters will appeal most to those whose study is in such fields, but the earlier chapters are substantial and broad enough to make the book useful to a much wider audience. 

The language used in the book is extremely clear, and a mathematical approach is combined with clear links to real biochemistry-there are no defrosting woolly mammoths approximated as spheres here.  

Jackson is laudably realistic in his preface, stating that while the mathematical appendices can act as ’useful guides’, some readers may need to look to other texts to plug gaps in their mathematical background. The main prescribed background is one in physical chemistry. 

The approach is very thoughtful, and the author is not afraid to point out places where he believes fallacious arguments exist in the literature. For instance, in discussion of the Eyring theory for activated rate processes, he roundly criticises the widespread handwaving transfer of a prefactor, derived for the gas phase, to the liquid environment. I found this flaw in the first few well-known biochemical texts that I checked. 

Every reviewer can think of omissions in a book such as this. As a reader with more of a physics background than a physical chemistry one, I would have liked, for instance, to find some clarification of the use and abuse of the concept of standard state, especially in dissecting the thermodynamics of molecular associations. Perhaps I can hope for this in a second edition.