Reviews

of books by Donald Voet, Judith Voet



Biochemistry
by Donald Voet, Judith Voet
J.Wiley&Sons, 2004, 3rd ed.

The 'Biochemistry' textbook by Voet and Voet  (now in its 3rd edition) is one of the most comprehensive textbooks for biochemistry and molecular biology. This is an excellent reference biochemistry text, but is not always easy to read. It has a strong focus on the chemistry of metabolic reactions. Like many other modern biochemistry text books, the authors followed a trend including more than classical biochemistry entails and can also serve as a good introductory book for molecular biology. The physiology part is less strong. This text book is suitable as graduate level biochemistry book.

August 19, 2000; updated 12/13/03; /  © 2000-2003 Lukas K. Buehler / go back to Book Review Home



Fundamentals in Biochemistry
by Donald Voet, Judith Voet, Charlotte Pratt
J.Wiley&Sons, 1998, 2001

Biochemistry is an established science and it seems straight forward to write an introductory textbook that covers the essence of the field. Biochemistry is, however, very much alive and growing at a tremendous pace fueled by progress in protein chemistry, molecular biology, structural studies, and cell biology.  The challenge obviously is to synthesize a readable yet inclusive textbook with enough details to satisfy the biochemistry major but not overwhelm the busy pre-med student with too many details of chemical reaction mechanisms.

'Fundamentals in Biochemistry' is a new textbook that has been written with just this goal in mind. With Charlotte Pratt as a new co-author aboard, Donald and Judith Voet succeeded in producing an abridged and yet new version of their excellent 'Biochemistry' textbook which is in its 2nd edition. The challenge for modern biochemistry textbooks is to write a comprehensive text and to include the rapidly increasing factual knowledge of protein and nucleic acid structures and function.  Biochemistry thus is more than enzymology and energy metabolism.  'Fundamentals in Biochemistry' introduces biomolecules (not just proteins) mainly from a structural point of view and presents metabolism (protein activity in pathways) as well as molecular biology (gene expression and replication) by integrating structure-function relationship of enzymes and DNA-binding proteins, respectively. 'Fundamentals in Biochemistry' is living proof of the overlap of biochemistry and molecular biology that goes beyond the studies of classical metabolic pathways. Interdisciplinary aspects become more important with the ongoing Genome and Proteome projects.

The authors manage well to discuss proteins within a physiologically relevant context in a chapter called 'Function of Proteins'. This chapter is a shortened version of the comparable chapter 'Molecular Physiology' in their 'Biochemistry' textbook. At first sight, this seems like a loss, yet it succinctly addresses the biochemically relevant aspects of major physiological systems in mammals. The authors resist the temptation to include everything physiological, immunological, or neurobiological. After all, biochemistry is not mammalian physiology.  The chapters, however, include brief outlooks into issues of medical, nutritional, or physiological relevance. An example of a well structured presentation are the two chapters on lipids and membranes. The discussion of lipid bilayers as distinct from biological membranes should be applauded. Although the very successful biophysical research on lipid bilayers up to the 80s were paramount to 'understand' biological membranes, the latter are much more complex and this complexity and the importance of membrane proteins involved in regulating membrane synthesis, transport and signaling is clearly emphasized. The well studied spontaneous processes of lipid bilayer fusion in vitro turns out to be tightly regulated in vivo by dozens of membrane resident proteins.  Such findings justify to look at cell membranes as a multi-enzyme machinery.

'Fundamentals in Biochemistry' is a very appealing introductory textbook for upper-division biology majors. It features well explained figures and graphics, provides concise problem sets, a glossary, and easy to use demo CD-ROM containing interactive problem sets that guide through structure-function relationship of selected protein systems.

 Biochemistry is an established science and it seems strait forward to write a textbook that covers the essence of the field. Biochemistry is, however, very much alive and growing at a tremendous pace fueled by progress in protein chemistry, molecular biology, structural studies, and cell biology.  The challenge obviously is to synthesize a readable yet inclusive textbook with just enough details to satisfy the curious biochemistry major but not overwhelm the busy pre-med student. 'Fundamentals in Biochemistry' is a new textbook that has been written with this goal in mind. With Charlotte Pratt as a new co-author on board, Donald Voet and Judith Voet succeeded in producing an abridged version of their excellent 'Biochemistry' textbook which is in its 2nd edition. Looking at the highly competitive market and all the textbooks available for college courses in biochemistry, it seems at first odd that anybody wants to compete against themselves. After all, 'Fundamentals in Biochemistry' is not simply a new, improved version of 'Biochemistry' but fundamentally redesigned to fit the upper division market at four year colleges for biology majors and pre-med students. The real competitor is Freeman's 'Biochemistry' by Lubert Stryer, which in the early 80s successfully competed against the biochemistry text book of the 60s and 70s known after his author simply as Lehninger. Lehninger set the standard for metabolic biochemistry and it was Stryer's good fortune and insight to embrace structural biochemistry which has outpaced metabolic biochemistry as the core course of a biochemistry curriculum based on student preferences. Metabolic and structural biochemistry are thus clearly separated with the latter becoming a prerequisite to study metabolic biochemistry. 'Fundamentals in Biochemistry' follows this outline by introducing biomolecules (not just proteins) mainly from a structural point of view and presents metabolism (protein activity in pathways) as well as molecular biology (Gene expression and replication).

January 2, 2000 /  © 2000 Lukas K. Buehler / go back to Book Review Home