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Biochemistry, Fifth Edition.

Biochemistry, Fifth Edition


Preface: for more than 25 years, and through four editions, Stryer's Biochemistry has laid out this beautiful subject in an exceptionally appealing and lucid manner. The engaging writing style and attractive design have made the text a pleasure for our students to read and study throughout our years of teaching. Thus, we were delighted to be given the opportunity to participate in the revision of this book. The task has been exciting and somewhat daunting, doubly so because of the dramatic changes that are transforming the field of biochemistry as we move into the twenty-first century. Biochemistry is rapidly progressing from a science performed almost entirely at the laboratory bench to one that may be explored through computers. The recently developed ability to determine entire genomic sequences has provided the data needed to accomplish massive comparisons of derived protein sequences, the results of which may be used to formulate and test hypotheses about biochemical function. The power of these new methods is explained by the impact of evolution: many molecules and biochemical pathways have been generated by duplicating and modifying existing ones. Our challenge in writing the fifth edition of Biochemistry has been to introduce this philosophical shift in biochemistry while maintaining the clear and inviting style that has distinguished the preceding four editions.

A New Molecular Evolutionary Perspective

How should these evolution-based insights affect the teaching of biochemistry? Often macromolecules with a common evolutionary origin play diverse biological roles yet have many structural and mechanistic features in common. An example is a protein family containing macromolecules that are crucial to moving muscle, to transmitting the information that adrenaline is present in the bloodstream, and to driving the formation of chains of amino acids. The key features of such a protein family, presented to the student once in detail, become a model that the student can apply each time that a new member of the family is encountered. The student is then able to focus on how these features, observed in a new context, have been adapted to support other biochemical processes. Throughout the text, a stylized tree icon is positioned at the start of discussions focused primarily on protein homologies and evolutionary origins.

Two New Chapters. 

To enable students to grasp the power of these insights, two completely new chapters have been added. The first, "Biochemical Evolution" (Chapter 2), is a brief tour from the origin of life to the development of multicellular organisms. On one level, this chapter provides an introduction to biochemical molecules and pathways and their cellular context. On another level, it attempts to deepen student understanding by examining how these molecules and pathways arose in response to key biological challenges. In addition, the evolutionary perspective of Chapter 2 makes some apparently peculiar aspects of biochemistry more reasonable to students. For example, the presence of ribonucleotide fragments in biochemical cofactors can be accounted for by the likely occurrence of an early world based largely on RNA. The second new chapter, "Exploring Evolution" (Chapter 7), develops the conceptual basis for the comparison of protein and nucleic acid sequences. This chapter parallels "Exploring Proteins" (Chapter 4) and "Exploring Genes" (Chapter 6), which have thoughtfully examined experimental techniques in earlier editions. Its goal is to enable students to use the vast information available in sequence and structural databases in a critical and effective manner.

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