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Regulation of gene expression in plants: the role of transcript structure and processing.
CL. Basset ed. 2007.
New York: Springer. £94·50 (hardback). 195 pp.
This book deals with the fundamentals and intricacies of the regulation of gene expression in plants, and the impact that this regulation has on plant development. Although the book mostly presents facts at an in-depth, molecular level, focusing in particular on the role of RNA, it does not lose sight of the cellular, organellar and physiological consequences of the various regulatory mechanisms. The reader is provided with a fascinating and structured account of the subject area: the book starts with basic introductory facts as well as practical applications (e.g. how RNA is used to measure gene expression), before moving on to discuss in detail the regulation of different cellular reactions by a multitude of diverse mechanisms (e.g. through alternative transcript initiation and processing, polyadenylation, RNA interference, as well as the transport and turnover of RNA).
The book is composed of six well-written chapters by different authors, which all begin with a helpful, basic introduction to the relevant topic, before heading into more detailed territory. Even though the volume has less than 200 pages it manages very well to highlight most of the main subjects in the plant gene expression field, and because of its rather ‘friendly’ length one never loses interest before reaching the end of a chapter – thus it succeeds in keeping the reader's attention throughout. Because of its specific focus on plants, the book is a very warmly welcomed contribution to the somewhat limited plant molecular literature.
The book is also very well structured. The first chapter deals with fundamental aspects of gene expression, providing context and a nice overview of the topic. The next three chapters then cover specific types of regulatory mechanism (i.e. multiple transcript initiation, alternative transcript processing, and messenger RNA 3′-end formation and polyadenylation). There then follows a chapter focused on regulation by small RNAs, which also covers the use of RNA interference as a molecular tool for the manipulation of gene expression. Finally, the closing chapter deals with the control of gene expression by the transport, localization and turnover of messenger RNA. The chapters are very informative and not only describe the regulatory mechanisms per se, but also link them with real examples of how they affect plant growth and development. Moreover, where applicable, comparisons with the mechanisms that operate in animals are given, providing a very useful indication of the aspects of gene expression that have diverged in the different kingdoms. The information provided is very much state-of-the art; the book not only summarizes current knowledge within each of the relevant fields, but also mentions uncertainties and debates about unresolved issues.
Shortcomings are few and far between. We noted that discussion of the unique regulatory mechanisms that operate within chloroplasts and mitochondria is restricted to short sections in the opening chapters. This is obviously a reflection of the authors' intention to focus on the nucleocytosolic system. Nonetheless, in view of the volume's stated focus on plants, a little more information on the plant-specific, endosymbiotic organelle would have been welcome. Our only other criticism pertains to the absence of colour figures from the locations in which they are actually discussed (i.e. within each chapter). Instead, grey-scale figures are included in the chapters, and those needing colour for better explanation are condensed into a separate colour plates section. While this is not optimal, it is nonetheless quite common in such volumes and is presumably borne of cost considerations. This issue aside, we found the illustrations to be very clear and informative.
Without doubt, this is a book that can be recommended to scientists working within the field of plant gene expression, including cell biologists, molecular biologists, geneticists and biochemists. Moreover, those interested in animal gene expression will find it useful, since numerous excellent examples of cross-kingdom similarity and dissimilarity are provided throughout the text. The book is particularly well suited for use in graduate student education because, as already mentioned, each chapter begins with a fundamental overview before entering into more detailed analysis: thus complexity increases gradually within each chapter, making the work quite accessible. Libraries should be encouraged to acquire the book as it has the potential to become a cornerstone within the subject for some years.
If one is interested in how plant growth and development are regulated by gene expression, and by RNA in particular, then this is a key piece of literature. Regulation of gene expression in plants is an excellent guide to the fantastic world of RNA molecules in plants.