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Logo of neuroncolAboutAuthor GuidelinesEditorial BoardNeuro-Oncology
Neuro-oncol. 2005 April; 7(2): 204–205.
PMCID: PMC1871880

Genetics: Analysis of Genes and Genomes, Sixth Edition

Reviewed by Wei Zhang

Daniel L. Hartl, Elizabeth W. Jones Jones and Bartlett Publishers: Sudbury, Massachusetts. 2004 854 pp. $123.95  0-7637-1511-5.

In sports, “going back to the basics” is an often-heard cliché, used when sophisticated maneuvers fail to win games. In current biomedical research, where many new mind-boggling technologies are constantly making the news, the concept of going back to the basics is rarely at the forefront. But when one does just that, as I did with Genetics: Analysis of Genes and Genomes, the sixth edition of a textbook intended for college students, one will experience a profound impact from revisiting the basic principles, the key historical discoveries, and the elegant discovery processes presented in the book. The authors, Daniel L. Hartl and Elizabeth W. Jones, are well-established geneticists and educators. Their simple and reader-friendly writing style and beautifully done graphs make the book a great read and even make some difficult concepts easy to understand. In this edition, Hartl and Jones adeptly integrate classic transmission genetics with molecular genetics and modern genomics. For example, each chapter contains two or three “Connections” features that highlight excerpts from classic papers reporting key discoveries. This material is inspiring, and I could not help going through many of the stories in my mind and then sharing some with my graduate students and even senior researchers. This is indeed one of the best textbooks I have read, and it should be a must-have genetics book not only for college and graduate students but also for biomedical researchers who are working on human diseases, including cancer, that have a genetic and molecular basis.

The book is divided into 18 chapters that guide the reader through the diverse topics that make up modern genetics. Chapter 1 is an overview of genetics and introduces the basic concepts of molecular genetics. Chapter 2 is an overview of DNA from the brilliant discovery of the double-helical DNA structure by Watson and Crick to the use of DNA markers for genetic mapping and the discovery of disease genes. In Chapters 3 through 5, the authors focus on transmission genetics, chromosome and sex-chromosome inheritance, genetic linkage, and chromosome mapping. Chapters 6 through 8 provide an in-depth description of the molecular biology of DNA replication and recombination, chromosome organization, human karyotypes, and chromosomal behavior. Chapter 9 is devoted to the genetics of bacteria and their viruses. Chapters 10 and 11 cover gene expression and gene regulation. Chapter 12 covers some of the most recent studies in genomics, proteomics, and transgenics. Although this is the chapter that focuses on genomics, much important information learned from the Human Genome Project is provided throughout the book whenever appropriate. For example, in a table on page 410 in chapter 10 showing the characteristics of human transcripts, the source is a Lander paper published in 2001 reporting the results from the Human Genome Project. In Chapter 15, which is about the cell cycle, a transcriptome profile of 800 yeast genes during different phases of the cell cycle is shown. Chapter 13 deals with the genetic control of development in animals and plants as well as important experimental systems such as the nematode and Drosophila. Chapters 14 and 15 discuss the molecular mechanisms of gene mutation, DNA repair, the cell cycle, and cancer. Chapter 16, which focuses on mitochondrial DNA and extranuclear inheritance, should also be of great interest to cancer researchers, although this chapter does not consider the role of mitochondria in cancer. Chapter 17 is on molecular evolution and population genetics. As the last chapter of the book, Chapter 18 provides readers with a dose of reality, focusing on the genetic basis of complex traits and inheritance.

The book contains much practical information for effective communication. For example, it provides the pronunciation for SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism), which is “snip”; RAPD (random amplified polymorphic DNA), which is “rapid”; and snRNPs (small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particle), which is “snerps.” The book also touches on important ethical and honesty issues in research. For example, in one of the “Connections” features titled “The case against Mendel’s gardener” and the related section “Are Mendel’s data too good to be true?” the issue of overzealous data interpretation by data selection is highlighted. The authors also teach scientific approaches to discovery, in some cases with a touch of humor. For example, on page 136 where they discuss the theory that genes are on chromosomes, they state, “But parallels do not constitute scientific proof, nor does widespread agreement among scientists.” Such scientific principles are not only important to instill in college students preparing to enter scientific careers, but they also hold true for investigators who have been doing research for many years but often forget some of the basic principles in their practice.

Other useful features include an Instructor’s Toolkit CD-ROM to help professors use this book effectively in their teaching. The publishers also maintain a feature called GeNETics on their Web page to provide additional Internet-based resources for inquisitive readers who want to explore various topics further.

Overall this is an outstanding book. There are, however, a few minor mistakes and weaknesses that are not at all obvious and can easily be rectified in the next edition. For example, a picture on page 521 should be on page 530. The definition of tumor suppressor genes is perhaps too liberal. For example, the mutation of P21 and Bax genes is rather rare, and although their protein products do inhibit cell proliferation and promote apoptosis, respectively, it may be a stretch to lump them into the category of tumor suppressor gene. The chapter on genomics, proteomics, and transgenics has a narrow focus. A more expanded version would better reflect the current status of these areas. By the same token, bioinformatics did not receive much attention. Having pointed out these “weaknesses,” it must be acknowledged that no book can or should cover all areas. But because “genomes” is in the title of the book, a more expanded coverage of genomics would perhaps be appropriate. For neuro-oncology researchers looking for topics specific to brain tumors, this is not the book. “Brain tumor,” “glioma,” and other neuro-oncology terms are not in the index, although gliomas are mentioned several times in different chapters when topics such as EGFR amplification are discussed.

In summary, Genetics: Analysis of Genes and Genomes is an outstanding textbook, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone at any stage of his or her academic or research career. One more thing: Isn’t the cover cool?

Articles from Neuro-Oncology are provided here courtesy of Society for Neuro-Oncology and Oxford University Press