Through the DNA double helix, the structures of nucleic acids touch the scientific consciousness of scientists involved in many aspects of contemporary biological science
Nucleic acids in chemistry and biology
Michael Blackburn, Michael Gait, David Loakes and David Williams (eds)
Cambridge, UK: The Royal Society of Chemistry | 2006 | 470pp | ?44.95 (HB) | ISBN 9780854046546
Reviewed by Richard Bowater
Through the DNA double helix, the structures of nucleic acids touch the scientific consciousness of scientists involved in many aspects of contemporary biological science. One reason for the iconic nature of this structure is the elegant explanations it provides for DNA metabolism. This clear biological relevance means that it can be easy to forget that these cellular processes are driven by basic chemical principles. The same laws of chemistry also apply to other forms of nucleic acids, such as RNA, though the biological functions of different classes of these molecules are extremely diverse. This book provides an excellent reminder of how studies into the basic chemistry of these various molecules have helped the understanding of their biological functions.
The earlier two editions of this book (published by Oxford University Press) earned respect through their authoritative style, and this new edition from the RSC retains the successful format. It is 10 years since the previous edition, and research into nucleic acids has been particularly active during that time.
The book contains a useful glossary of nucleic acid terminology, many useful references for further reading and figures to aid understanding of the principles under discussion. Good aspects from the previous edition are retained, including the introductory short historical overview of biological and chemical studies of nucleic acids. Three chapters cover the use of nucleic acids in biotechnology; genes and genomes; and RNA structure and function. It is these chapters that highlight the recent massive impact of this topic on biology and biotechnology, noticeably through the publication of large numbers of genome sequences and the recognition that RNA has many diverse functions within cells. Chemical aspects of nucleic acids come to the fore in the last third of the book, with description of interactions of small molecules with nucleic acids, protein-nucleic acid interactions and techniques used to analyse nucleic acids.
In summary, this book provides an excellent overview of the chemistry and biology of nucleic acids, at a level that is suitable for use in university teaching, but with enough detail to be useful as a reference source for chemists, biochemists and biologists involved in current research of nucleic acids.