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Proteins: Structure and Function.

Proteins: Structure and Function. David Whitford. Chichester, West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2005, 542 pp., paperback, $65.00. ISBN 0-471-49894-7.


Back in the early 1970s, when I was a guest at the National Institutes of Health, a protein biochemist lamented that there was no future in studying proteins--interest had shifted to nucleic acids. It was becoming easier to learn the amino acid sequence of a protein by sequencing its cDNA bases than by the classic techniques of protein chemistry. Now, however, the pendulum has swung, and proteins are recognized to be the active molecules that the vast DNA libraries encode; proteomes are surpassing genomes. Cloning has allowed preparation of almost any desired modification of a protein, and combinatorial techniques have shown interactions of proteins with each other and with smaller molecules. There is great interest in how extended peptide chains fold to native configurations and how proteins are degraded, as well as how they are synthesized.

This book is described as introductory yet extensive, aimed at directing students "to the amazing beauty and complexity of protein systems". It is designed to be a basic text for undergraduates or as a review and update source for graduates. Chapter subjects include amino acids, 3-dimensional structure, fibrous proteins, membrane proteins, proteomics and protein evolution, enzyme function, protein metabolism, cloning and isolation methods, physical chemical analytical techniques, protein folding, and the disease implications of protein mutations and conformational changes. The Preface and Introduction give credit to "scientific 'giants"' in our past; it was heartening to see the late Christian B. Anfinsen, my thesis professor and a Nobel Prize winner, cited among these, along with Mulder, Sumner, Sanger, and Pauling.

This book includes considerable detail of metabolic pathways related to proteins: the citric acid cycle, biosynthesis of proteins, degradation of proteins via proteasomes, and folding inside GroEC-GroES barrels, for example; it thus goes well beyond protein chemistry. There are many fine structural diagrams, in ribbon form, wire-frame, space-filling, and 3-dimensional reconstructions; the models of ribosome action are particularly informative.

Two chapters on purification and physical chemical studies are comprehensive without involving highly technical aspects. They cover cloning and the common steps in isolation--salting out, centrifugation, electrophoresis, ultrafiltration, chromatography, Western blotting, and affinity chromatography. The increasingly popular technique of mass spectrometry is described, along with 5 types of preionization; ESI (electrospray ionization) and MALDI (matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization) are widely used, with TOF (time-of-flight) detection, and precision is attained to 6 figures.

X-Ray crystallographic theory is made understandable, as are the techniques of circular dichroism, electron spin resonance, and optical, fluorescence, infrared, and Raman spectroscopy. The reader learns of the growing application of NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) to the study of protein structure, with its 3 pulse schemes, COSY (correlation spectroscopy), TOCSY (total correlation spectroscopy), and NOESY (nuclear Overhauser effect spectroscopy). The final chapter, on the involvement of protein structure in medicine, gives as examples sickle cell anemia, HIV, cholera toxin action, influenza, the p53 proteins in relation to malignancy, antitrypsin deficiency, and the role of protein misfolding in neurodegenerative diseases.

This reviewer found one point of disagreement. The color generated in the biuret reaction (Chapter 2, page 33) is said to arise from reduction of CU(II) to Cu(I), whereas this color is generally considered to result from complexation of CU(II) by peptide nitrogens.

This book fulfills its goal as a worthwhile investment for the beginning student or for the advanced scientist seeking a better grasp of protein chemistry, including both structural and metabolic aspects.

Theodore Peters

Bassett Research Institute Cooperstown, NY 13326-1038

DOI: 10.1373/clinchem.2005.057588
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Author:Peters, Theodore
Publication:Clinical Chemistry
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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