Master Control Genes in Development and Evolution: The Homeobox Story (The Terry Lectures Series) 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0300074093
ISBN-10: 0300074093
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Editorial Reviews

From The New England Journal of Medicine

Many developmental biologists and geneticists have enjoyed reading the literature on the work of Walter Gehring's laboratory. It was thus a great pleasure to peruse a book detailing the behind-the-scenes story of Gehring's seminal contributions to our understanding of homeobox proteins. The most fascinating aspect of Master Control Genes in Development and Evolution is Gehring's genuine amusement with science, embellished by intriguing stories about his colleagues. The scientific information is plainly presented and basic, so that even those who are unfamiliar with developmental genetics can understand it.

There is a long history of studies of homeotic transformation in drosophila, dating back to the isolation of the bithorax gene mutation by Calvin Bridges in 1915. Gehring started his laboratory in the late 1970s, when molecular genetics was coming into vogue and the new techniques of this field could be applied to understanding transformation. His contributions are many, including the discovery of the antennapedia homeobox gene and an understanding of the structure of homeoproteins. He also created a tractable genetic system using the fly, developing some of the important tricks of the trade: heat-shock promoters, enhancer traps, and lacZ cell-lineage analysis. More recently, he discovered similarities between the mammalian homeoprotein PAX6 and the drosophila eyeless gene, demonstrating a similar evolution of eyes among divergent invertebrate and vertebrate species. The chronicle of these discoveries as they occurred during the 1980s and early 1990s was extremely interesting for those of us who had read Gehring's papers. Gehring is also gracious and credits others for their contributions to the field.

A unique and delightful aspect of this book deals with Walter Gehring's mind. He is clearly an exceptionally smart person, driven by an intense intrinsic curiosity about biology. Yet he describes the humanistic features of scientific inquisitiveness: examining why things fly, tracking the migration of birds by radar, and even looking at the toes of a person sitting next to him in an airplane, trying to evaluate whether they have a homeotic transformation.

The relationship between students and mentors is another theme of this book. Gehring takes us through his development as a student of Ernst Hadorn and relates his appreciation of his mentor. This experience clearly influences Gehring's dealings with his own postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. Gehring presents difficult but informative experiments to those in his laboratory, and despite the many reasons for potential failure, his premonitions are borne out with successful experiments. He tells a story of the way in which luck can enter into science: the discovery of the eyeless gene began as a band on a gel used as a control for another experiment.

This book is a testament to the will of Gehring, who was so fascinated by biology that he developed the molecular genetics of the drosophila system to further our understanding of embryogenesis, patterning, and disease. Through this book on homeotic transformation, he has transformed our thoughts regarding the process of discovery. Gehring has a fascination with the press and muses about the crazy titles of newspaper articles describing his work. When the eyeless gene was found to induce eyes in locations where eyes do not normally form, The New York Times published a front-page article entitled, "With New Fly, Science Outdoes Hollywood." With this book, I believe that Gehring has earned the title, "Master of the Master Control Genes."

Reviewed by Leonard Zon, M.D.
Copyright © 1999 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved. The New England Journal of Medicine is a registered trademark of the MMS.


Master Control Genes in Development and Evolution offers a vivid introduction to recent findings on how genes control development. In reading it, the layperson will also learn a great deal about the process of discovery through Gehring's particularly warm and personal perspective. Developmental biologists might not care as much about the technical descriptions, but they, too, will enjoy Gehring's accounts, which may seem like looking back at old family movies from their youth. -- Claude Desplan, Science

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Product Details

  • Series: The Terry Lectures Series
  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (November 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300074093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300074093
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,370,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Walter Gehring, a cell biologist and a researcher in developmental biology (evo-devo) is also a Professor at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, Switzerland. Dr. Gehring and his team had studied closely how a 2-winged Drosophila can transform to a mutant 4-winged fly.

This book is the narrative of such study and how homeotic genes, also are present among most organisms including primates, perform this transformation. Dr. Gehring tells us that the homeotic genes are master control genes in development and evolution. What activates this (kind of off/on switch) is a stretch of DNA about 180 nucleotides long that encodes a homeodomain called a homeobox.

It's been a decade now since this book was published. And there have been very positive development in this field. But his research reaffirms the foundational understanding on developmental biology where most of biologists of our time owed to his research.

I have nothing but respect and admiration to Dr. Walter Gehring and his team. He is a master in his area of discipline. Whether you are teaching biology, a genetic researcher, an undergraduate in this field, or a reader who delights in developmental biology, you will find Dr. Gehring's book a worthwhile read.

Very scholarly done and a well-entertaining book.
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11 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I can say that I am the only one reader who is worriest to read this book.Oh my God,I got this book in the library first at the begining of 1999.In a week,including day and night,I read this lovest book from first page to the last page for my much hungry.And then,the second time to read it for its deep meaning and interesting history of homeobox gene.I think this book is too short to satisfy the reader like me for waiting it so long time.I hope Dr.Walter J.gehring publish another book on the homeobox gene in the future.Please let him know there is a reader waiting for his new book.This strange reader is a Mongolian( a minority in China) and he is even dreaming to become his student or a volunteer in his lab.I can promise htat this book is the most important one for the developmental genetics and the molecular genetics.Please read it as soon as possible.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 4, 1998
Format: Hardcover
One of the most famous scientists on the homeobox genes research on the world:Dr.Gwhring will give us a excellent book on the homeobox genes which will be the second one.I think publishers should publish more and more books like this,because this kind of books are too limit to be used.I am researching how to use this homeobox genes to the improvment of farm animals such as Mongolia sheep and the other animals.THe multivertebrae sheep among the Mongolia sheep is resulted from the mutation of Homeobox genes and this multivertebrae animal can produce more meat than the normal one on the same age and on the same envirenment.The multivtebrae sheep's vertebrae number is more than that of normal animal by one to two for thoracic or lumber,so can produce more ribs and meat and less fat.The book on the homeobox genes will be help us research the priciple of the genetics on this animal and undstand how the genes work on the vertebral animals and how the evolusion processeed.I believe that this book will be wellcome by all the develpmental genetic workers on the world and produce much more homoebox funs like me.
Good luck to this book and good luck to the homeobox genes.
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Master Control Genes in Development and Evolution: The Homeobox Story (The Terry Lectures Series)
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