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Landmark Papers in Cell Biology.

Landmark Papers in Cell Biology. Joseph G. Gall and J. Richard McIntosh, eds. Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2000, 554 pp., hardcover, $45.00. ISBN 0-87969-602-8.

The American Society for Cell Biology is celebrating its 40th anniversary with the publication of this collection of significant papers in their field. It is impressive to see before you the growth of knowledge of the functioning of the living cell since 1957, the date of the earliest included publication: J.H. Taylor, P.S. Woods, and W.L. Hughes (Proc Natl Acad Sci) explain the organization and duplication of chromosomes using autoradiography with tritiated thymidine.

The papers were nominated by the editorial board of Molecular Biology of the Cell and chosen by editors Gall and McIntosh, both eminent cell biologists. They restricted the selection to studies on eukaryotes and generally omitted papers that were purely biochemical, genetic, or developmental in their nature. The 42 papers selected cover the following themes: genome organization and replication; transcription; nuclear envelope and nuclear import; mitosis and cell cycle control; cell membrane and extracellular matrix; protein synthesis and membrane traffic; and cytoskeleton. A brief commentary precedes each article to explain its historical significance.

As a biochemist who joined the Society at its founding to better understand the workings of the cell, I found the papers to be both nostalgic and informative. Although the essence of major advances appears in digested form in textbooks and review articles, one can better appreciate the excitement of their appearance by reading the originals. Compare reading reviews of evolution with reading Darwin's The Origin of Species.

Among the papers that I consider to be classics (with their subjects italicized) are the following: Formation and detection of RNA-DNA hybrid molecules in cytological preparations, J.G. Gall and M.L. Pardue (1969); Visualization of nucleolar genes, O.L. Miller, Jr. and B.R. Beatty (1969); A large particle associated with the perimeter of the nuclear pore complex, P.N.T. Unwin and R.A. Milligan (1982); Cell motility by labile association of molecules. The nature of mitotic spindle fibers and their role in chromosome movement, S. Inoue and H. Sato (1967); Fracture faces of frozen membranes, D. Branton (1966); The fluid mosaic model of the structure of cell membranes, S.J. Singer and G.L. Nicolson (1972); Intracellular transport of secretory proteins in the pancreatic exocrine cell. II. Transport to condensing vacuoles and zymogen granules, J.D. Jamieson and G.E. Palade (1967); Transfer of proteins across membranes. I. Presence of proteolytically processed and unprocessed nascent immunoglobulin light chains on membrane-bound ribosomes of murine myeloma, G. Blobel and B. Dobberstein (1975; discovery of the signal peptide); and Studies on the microtubules in Heliozoa. II. The effect of low temperature on these structures in the formation and maintenance of the axopodia, L.G. Tilney and K.R. Porter (1967).

The reproduction of the original articles is excellent, including many transmission electron micrographs and the striking freeze-fracture pictures of the cell membrane. The volume is reasonably priced and is recommended for those interested in the background of our knowledge of the cell.

Research Institute

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Author:Peters, Theodore, Jr.
Publication:Clinical Chemistry
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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