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Genes & Signals

Subject Areas: Cell Biology; Genetics and Genome Science; Cancer and Oncogenes; Molecular Biology; Developmental Biology; Biochemistry

By: Mark Ptashne, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Alexander Gann, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

View Figures: Figures from Genes & Signals

Chapter 1: Lessons from Bacteria
Chapter 2: Yeast: A Single-celled Eukaryote
Chapter 3: Some Notes on Higher Eukaryotes
Chapter 4: Enzyme Specificity and Regulation

Additional Material:
Genes and Signals, Lecture Series by Mark Ptashne

Genes & Signals
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Genes & Signals analyzes gene regulation from a new perspective. The first chapter describes mechanisms found in bacteria, and two subsequent chapters discuss which of these is most highly exploited in higher organisms. A final chapter relates these molecular strategies to other enzymatic processes, including those involving kinases, RNA splicing enzymes, proteases, and others. A general theme emerges, one that proposes how a rather restricted set of signals and enzymatic functions has been used in evolution to generate complex life forms of different types.

review:  "This book opens up the basic molecular language that cells use for their internal organization and to communicate with the outside world. This is important, and fascinating, for anyone interested in how cells work and how regulatory systems evolve."
      —From the Foreword by Tony Pawson

review:  "I read this book with great pleasure. I have always been convinced that the same principles operating in bacteria are also operating in higher organisms with added complexity. The question therefore is to understand what kind of complexity is involved and how it is geared. This is a necessary book (which is a rare thing!)."
      —Francois Jacob

review:  "It's a great synthesis making the field accessible to a wide scientific audience and putting forward provocative and stimulating ideas. Scientists interested in interpretting genomes will find it an invaluable guide to thinking about the regulatory information encoded in the chromosomes."
      —Eric Lander

review:  "There is nothing out there that gives such a broad, deep and up to date view of transcription regulation and the general problem of specificity. My students think the book is great–important ideas and concepts are clearly described and beautifully illustrated."
      —Tom Maniatis, Harvard University

review:  "Genes & Signals reduces the immense and sometimes bewildering literature on the control of gene expression to simple principles. Amazingly, it manages to do so by providing a framework for the experimental evidence rather than concealing it. It is a beautiful presentation, which can be appreciated by readers at all levels."
      —Frank Stahl

review:  "A compelling and deeply conceptual work about how biological reactions are regulated. . . . What this book provides is a guide to the concepts that form the framework for the gene expression field. The concepts allow students to understand the context of the facts and apply this information to their own studies. Students who are lucky enough to read Genes & Signals won't be slithering out of transcription seminars in 30 years, when our field has been condensed to an in silico version of an intermediary metabolism wall chart."
      —Nature Genetics

review:  "This book should win a wide readership, especially among young people intrigued—but not satisfied—by entry–level biology courses. Applying simple principles to the dazzling particularity of gene expression, Genes & Signals will give students a glimpse of the beauty and fascination of molecular biology. This book should also be required reading for professionals who (like the reviewer) learned their biology without being initiated into the mysteries of lac and l gene regulation. We 'already knew that,' perhaps. But the lesson is easy to forget as we trudge through blizzards of genomic and proteomic information. It helps to be reminded, yet again, how complexity creates itself by combining small numbers of simple mechanisms."
      —Current Biology

review:  "In Genes & Signals, Ptashne and Gann have written a unique book that is driven by ideas and broad concepts, yet is based on solid information. It is accessible to undergraduates with some knowledge of biology, yet it is also valuable to experts in the field. I highly recommend it."


"Ptashne and Gann have written a clear and intelligent distillation of the various assembly pathways, especially in transcription initiation.

The authors start with the simplest systems, phage and bacteria, and work toward the more complex. . . .

. . . A major strength of Genes & Signals is the spare use of experimental detail. An experimental approach is described briefly, e.g., crosslinking, and the results of the experiment and its implication for the biochemistry of the reaction under study are stressed. This approach is highly successful and the inverse of more conventional presentations, where experimental detail is laboriously elaborated and the conclusions to be drawn given short shrift. The artwork, by the way, is a pleasure. . . .

Because of the clarity and logic of the presentation, Genes & Signals can be recommended for a very wide audience, from college students to experienced researchers. It is not long, it's fun, and it makes you think."

review:  "The text of the book is beautifully crafted; the reader is taken on a journey from one section to the next in a seamless manner. The book makes extensive use of footnotes that are included at the end of each chapter so that those of us who want to know more can understand the basis of many of the statements made within the text itself. Furthermore, the illustrations are both beautifully drawn and immensely helpful. Ptashne and Gann have again distilled complex subjects into a readily understandable form. Its thought–provoking nature, clarity, and accessibility make it an essential read."
      —The Biochemist

review:  "I cannot over emphasize the clarity of the prose in this book. Any student remotely interested in molecular biology will be enthralled from first page to last."
      —Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education

review:  "The authors have managed to create a book that is very useful for the novice in this field, while also proving somewhat beneficial to those who have a more detailed background but are looking for a deeper insight into one topic. The novice will be able to walk away with a good and detailed summary of many processes and principles regulating transcriptional initiation in a range of organisms."
      —Journal of Cell Science

Mark Ptashne is the Ludwig Professor of Molecular Biology at the Sloan-Kettering Institute, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and a Professor at Cornell University, both in New York City. In addition to Genes & Signals, he is author of A Genetic Switch. Alexander Gann is Senior Editor, Textbooks at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press and a member of the faculty of the Watson School of Biological Sciences, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York.

© 2002 by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. All rights reserved.
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