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From a to α: Yeast as a Model for Cellular Differentiation

Subject Areas: Cell Biology; Developmental Biology; Yeast

By: By Hiten D. Madhani,  University of California, San Francisco , California

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From a to α is a short supplemental textbook that uses control of yeast mating type as a model for many aspects of cell determination in general. Topics covered include gene silencing; genetic recombination; differentiation; combinatorial gene regulation; mRNA transport to establish asymmetric cell division; signal transduction; evolution of genetic networks; and various aspects of cell biology, including action of cytoskeleton and bud site selection. The book includes a foreword by Mark Ptashne, author of A Genetic Switch.

review:  “The lessons learned from yeast studies are stated refreshingly in a direct, matter–of–fact style, without repeating in detail the experiments that led to the knowledge. A description of the text of each concept is pictorially supported by a figure, and a full one–third of the space is allotted to figures—all features making it one of the most pleasantly readable books in biology...

This book should be a ‘must read’ for anyone beginning to experiment with yeast. I suspect most experts in the yeast field are inundated with literature and selectively keep up with developments primarily in their immediate field. Reading this book will help such experts to appreciate developments in other areas of yeast research. Although yeast has only a handful of cell types, the principles learned form yeast studies are bound to help both beginners and seasoned researchers wishing to discover the underpinnings of cellular differentiation and development and the cause of disease in higher eukaryotes with vast arrays of cell types.”
      —Nature Genetics

review:  “Madhani’s book thoughtfully highlights the elegant and ground-breaking work performed in yeast, and the resulting general mechanistic insights and molecular paradigms that emerged...

In the specific sense that Madhani intended—as a manual for how yeast studies have led to general principles of eukaryotic cell differentiation—the book succeeds admirably, and proceeds in a logical, iterative and readable manner. It benefits from simple graphics and inserts in most chapters, which present specific concepts in the context of metazoans or of human disease...

...as an illustrative guide of how studies in a model organism can be illuminating for large areas of biology, Madhani’s book is well worth the price.”
      —Nature Cell Biology

review:  “This concise, 115–page book nicely summarizes the major concepts regarding the mechanisms that enable yeast cells to differentiate into two different mating types: the a and the α referred to in the title....By keeping a narrow focus, the book succeeds in succinctly highlighting a key set of concepts without becoming redundant. The writing will be readily accessible to advanced undergraduates and new graduate students, as well as more advanced researchers who are not yeast experts. This volume is recommended as a good starting point before embarking on a detailed study of the primary literature.”
      —The Quarterly Review of Biology

review:  “All in all, a nice wee book at a reasonable price which should prove of interest to all developmental cell biologists, and yeasty people, out there.”
      —Society for General Microbiology Quarterly

review:  “Overall, this is an excellent account of the mechanisms and concepts involved in the cellular differentiation that accompanies mating in yeast. It is very pleasurable to read and should appeal both to beginners and established yeast researchers. Furthermore, it could be beneficial for researchers working on other systems. As demonstrated very convincingly by Dr. Madhani, what we learn from yeast is likely to continue to offer some hints for our understanding of cellular differentiation in more complex systems.”
      —Genetical Research

Hiten Madhani is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. Using yeast as a model system, he has made contributions to the fields of gene regulation and signal transduction.

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