The Yeast Nucleus edited by P. Fantes and J. Beggs Oxford University Press (2000) 338 pages. ISBN 0–19-963772-5?32.50 Without question, numerous studies in yeast and mammals have revealed a striking commonality of underlying mechanisms that govern basic biological operations. Perhaps the most famous example from recent years has been the recognition that genes required for maintaining the yeast genome play a critical role in preventing cancer in humans. However, examining the molecular differences - the variations on a common theme, so to speak - can also be useful for understanding core biological processes. These ideas are the foundation for The Yeast Nucleus, a valuable contribution to Oxford University Press's ‘Frontiers in Molecular Biology’ series. The textbook compares and contrasts various nuclear processes in budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and fission yeast (Schizosaccharomyces pombe), pointing out the similarities - and differences - that make these two somewhat unrelated yeasts the dominant model systems for studying fundamental eukaryotic processes. Each of the nine chapters is an authoritative review written by experts in the field. The opening chapter surveys the technologies that have propelled efforts to elucidate the functions of the ~6000 predicted protein-encoding genes in S. cerevisiae; this chapter includes sections on bioinformatics, genome-wide transcription and proteome analysis. The next four chapters - covering DNA replication, the mitotic cell cycle, cell cycle checkpoints and nuclear division - form a well-integrated quartet that describes the complex molecular and genetic pathways governing faithful chromosome replication and segregation. The cell cycle chapter, in particular, is presented from a unique perspective: rather than focusing on the physiological changes that occur at each stage, it instead illustrates the molecular machines (i.e. the cyclin-dependent kinases) that propel the cell cycle. The fifth chapter provides a comprehensive discussion on RNA polymerase II transcription in S. cerevisiae that incorporates sections on general transcription factors, coactivators and repressors. It also includes a brief synopsis of the effects of chromatin on transcription, which creates a nice segue to the following chapter on the structure of chromatin at centromeres and telomeres. The final two chapters, on pre-mRNA splicing and nuclear transport of RNA and proteins, focus mainly on the mechanisms identified in budding yeast. The only obvious shortcoming with respect to the scope of this textbook is that it fails to include in-depth discussions of DNA repair and recombination. This publication has several attributes that make it an excellent reference source. First, it is a comprehensive review that weaves a great deal of supplementary information into each chapter. It not only is extensively referenced, but also frequently includes citations to reviews and to yeast database websites for further details. Second, the book is well written and readable. Each chapter is organized in a logical sequence - for example, the chapter on DNA replication starts with origin recognition and ends with Okazaki fragment processing. Furthermore, although the descriptions of genetic and molecular pathways are often encyclopedic, extensive summary tables and/or simple diagrams supplement the discussions and assist the reader in grasping the information. The value of such summary tables can be greatly appreciated when navigating through the maelstrom of mismatched S. cerevisiae and S. pombe CDC and RAD gene nomenclature. Lastly, there is an overall congruity that pulls together the topics of the separate chapters and relates them to one another. For instance, examples of genome-wide analyses are highlighted in several chapters to convey the practicality and usefulness of this approach, and the chapters on splicing and nuclear transport both include small sections that link these activities to other nuclear processes that have been discussed. It is important to note, however, that a complete understanding of many of the sections will require prior knowledge of fundamental genetic principles and molecular biology techniques; for this reason, the book may be better suited to the more advanced reader. The Yeast Nucleus is designed to stimulate thinking - not only about the similarities and differences between the budding and fission yeasts, but about whether comparable mechanisms might be used in other organisms as well. To achieve this goal, it goes beyond a comparative analysis of the two yeasts, and draws parallels with bacteriophage, viral and a variety of metazoan systems when applicable. The result is a well-integrated view that succeeds in providing a foundation for provoking thought about the unity of basic biological mechanisms. Moreover, each chapter concludes with an insightful look at the future direction of the field. In these regards, this publication will serve as a fabulous guidebook for experts as well as students.
- © 2001 by Company of Biologists