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on June 1, 2002
I'm an amateur biologist, and a professional computer software engineer and product reviewer. A keen interest in the mechanics of genetic expression has drawn me to the beautiful details of cellular mechanics. While this book is everything the other reviewers say (and are qualified to say) it is, let me weigh in on the accompanying CD, which is an area in which I can claim some expertise.
The vast majority of CDs bundled with textbooks are afterthoughts -- either an electronic copy of the text, or some lightly related adjunct materials, usually pulled from the public domain. MBotC is different. The CD is nothing short of breathtaking. A technical tour de force, this CD runs on both Mac and Windows, which is no mean feat. It leverages time-tested technologies such as Netscape, Java, and Quicktime to produce stunningly vivid presentations. It performs well, and is rock-solid stable.

Beyond flawless delivery, the content itself is brilliantly executed. This is largely original content developed for this book, and tied directly into the text chapter by chapter. You get narrated animations that show dozens of cellular processes in a way that catalyzes learning. Videos capture live microscopy showing ATP synthase rotors spinning, microtubules self-assembling, actin crawling, and mitosis mitoting. An image magnifier lets you browse photomicrographs in detail.
Most astounding of all is the seamless incorporation of a molecular viewer, the Chime Java browser plugin, which directly reads and interprets Protein Data Base (PDB) files and displays the models in interactive 3D. The CD includes hundreds of PDB models, including a wonderful reference library of amino acids, nucleotimes, lipids, and sugars.
The CD alone is worth hundreds of dollars, just in the labor expended to assemble material from labs around the world and organize it to fit the chapters of the text. I've used numerous of CDs promising to teach molecular biology, and nothing else comes remotely close to the quality and depth of this volume.
That you can buy the CD -- with a ten-pound book attached -- for [the price] is simply a miracle. It's a no-brainer for anybody remotely interested in cell biology. If you're one of them, you must buy this!
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on January 12, 2008
GREAT book, but the only problem is that the last 5 chapters are in PDF format on an attached CD rather than in print (they did this to make the book more portable). If you want the full print version, buy the Reference edition.
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on September 16, 2009
[Reviewing 5th Edition, Chapters 1-7] I'm a Ph.D. computer scientist working on an NIH grant in text mining biomedical literature, so I thought I should bone up on the underlying science. The first seven chapters of this book are just what I needed. The first overview chapter is an excellent standalone introduction to the cell and genomics/proteomics and their ilk. After a two-chapter very comprehensible introduction to biochemistry (strong emphasis on thermodynamics/energy and bonding/structure) and protein structures, the next chapters lay out the entire process from DNA to protein, including expression control.

It's slow reading (it takes me an hour or more to read 10 pages), but very clearly written, and very thorough. The diagrams and accompanying text are amazingly clear and helpful. (There are also animations, but I've never looked at the DVD.) The diagrams and their long captions are often supplementary in that they add details that are not in the body of the text.

I had read the same sections of the 4th Edition a few years ago. The 5th edition adds substantial new material starting with the chapter on proteins. Ironically, the 5th edition is more speculative, because the more we find out about gene expression, the further away full understanding seems to be. The book does a nice job of balancing what's known fairly certainly with speculative guesses about things like chromatin structure.

This time, I think I'll keep going. The sections of the rest of the book I've browsed when they've been cross-referenced are also excellent.
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VINE VOICEon July 1, 2000
In graduate school for Neuroscience I had to take a class on molecular biology and biochemistry which was required of all med students whether Ph.D. or M.D. or both. We had five different teachers in the class, three of whom were foreign. Since I was the first Deaf person to take Neuroscience there, they weren't prepared for me...and I ended up taking the class without interpreters! I had to lipread the teachers. If it hadn't been for this particular textbook, I would never had made it through! I am not kidding anyone by saying this. YOu can take a class with just this textbook for information and still pass with flying colors. That is how well this text is written. For once, the book was written with the student in mind, not the peers of the authors. It was written to teach the same information that the authors had in such a way as to make it understandable. Not only did I use this text in this class but in most of my classes at med school. When I started working on HIV encephalitis in my chosen lab for two years, I was not surprised to find this book on the shelves...and we all referred to it constantly. I applaud the authors for a job well done, and if I ever write a textbook, this will be the one I use to follow as an appropriate way to write curriculum. The amount of pictures and graphs were especially great for teaching Deaf students and I intend to use it for such. Karen Sadler, Science Education, University of Pittsburgh
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In the past few years quite a few books on molecular biology and genetics have appeared, and all of these have been exceptionally well-written. Most have been updates of previous editions, and if compared with these, the most recent editions have displayed an enthusiasm and excitement that dwarfs their earlier editions. This book, now in its fourth edition, is an example of one of these, and I believe the reason for their increasing quality is the excitement that biologists are now feeling. This is due no doubt to the incredible strides that have been taken in biology in the last few years. Biologists are with complete justification very excited that they understand in greater detail what life is all about, and are looking forward to an even deeper understanding in the decades ahead.
As a non-biologist but one deeply embedded in bioinformatics and certain areas of computational biology, this book served my need to understand in greater detail the underlying biology behind these fields. It is a beautiful book, both from an aesthetic viewpoint and because of its content. The book reads more like a story than a textbook, but the information gain when reading it is considerable, with less entropy than what might be expected from such a deep subject with myriads of terms that must be understood before moving on to others. The author's approach to the book is well-organized, with many accompanying diagrams that illustrate the complicated processes and structures that can occur in the molecular realm. In addition, helpful summaries are put at several places in the book. There are no exercises in this book but there is a workbook that one can purchase separately.
Space prohibits a detailed review of such a large book, but some of the more interesting discussions in the book include: 1. The paragraph on the role of sex in bringing about horizontal genetic exchanges within a species. The thinking is that the genomes of modern eubacteria, archaea, and eucaryotes originated in three different "anthologies" of genes that survived from an ancestral pool in which genes were frequently exchanged. This hypothesis is tempting, argue the authors, since it would explain the fact that eucaryotes are similar to archaea in terms of genetic "information-handling" but more similar to eubacteria from a metabolic standpoint. Horizontal gene transfer has become a very important topic of late, due in part to the uproar on bioengineered foods. 2. The suggestion that eucaryotic cells originated as predators, pointing to the presence of mitochondria as one piece of evidence. 3. The entire chapter on proteins, but especially the discussion on protein folding, allosteric enzymes and allosteric transitions. The discussion on protein folding is qualitative but the authors give interesting insights on this topic. In answering the question as to why only a few of the 20^300 different polypeptide chains will be useful to a living organism, they point to natural selection, and the resulting conformations being stable due to its fine tuning. The extreme sensitivity of protein function to small changes in their structure has recently fueled speculation by religionists as being evidence of "intelligent design", but such speculations, even if true, will not improve the understanding of proteins, and can therefore be safely ignored from a scientific viewpoint. The authors do devote a short paragraph to the discussion of computational methods in the protein folding problem, and also discuss briefly the experimental difficulties in determining the conformations of proteins. They also give some of the mathematical details of steady state enzyme kinetics. 4. The discussion on the need for low mutation rates in order to have life. 5. The section on abnormally folded proteins and their relation to diseases, such as prion diseases. Prions have been a contentious issue of late, due to the issues with "mad cow disease" in Great Britain. 6. The section on the "RNA world" and the origins of life. The authors discuss the need in early cells for molecules to perform reactions that lead to the production of more molecules like themselves. From the standpoint of modern cells, polypeptides, they point out, can serve to be catalysts, but they emphasize that there is no known way in which this type of molecule can copy itself by the specification of another of precisely the same sequence. The talk about one theory, the "pre-RNA" world, as justification for the need for simpler compounds to act as template and catalyst for the synthesis of complementary RNA. 7. The section on heterodimerization and its use in "combinatorial control", the latter being a process in which combinations of different proteins control a cellular process. Although not discussed in this book, the mathematical modeling of combinatorial control and its role in signal transduction systems has taken on more importance in recent years. 8. The section on how genetic switches work and the role of operons thereof. 9. The phenomenon of "transcriptional synergy" in gene activator proteins. Here the transcription rate is higher when several activator proteins are working together than when any of the activators are working alone. 10. The discussion on how circadian clocks can be created using feedback loops in gene regulation. The authors describe an interesting experiment that produced a simple gene clock using techniques from genetic engineering. 11. The section discussing RNA interference, a topic that has taken on enormous importance lately, since using it allows researchers the ability to turn off the expression of individual cellular genes. Indeed pharmaceutical bioinformatics and the role of "in silico" molecular target identification makes use of the ability to "tune" phenotypes by using RNA interference for laboratory validation of the bioinformatic algorithms.
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on July 16, 1999
This text covers every important aspect in the field, from experimental techniques and basic concepts to reviews of immunology, cancer, and developmental biology. I used it as a reference in four different undergraduate classes, and have prepared for several job interviews by reviewing the relevant information in this book. The illustrations are all relevant, the organization is excellent, and the prose is so well written that I take the book off the shelf and read it for fun. A new edition would be useful - some of the more speculative information is outdated - but this is still the best textbook I own.
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VINE VOICEon April 2, 2006
This book is beautifully written and illustrated. It is everything a text book should be, especially for someone like me who wants to learn this on his own.

A typical problem with a book like this is that the first n pages will be very readable and then suddenly there will be an elbow in the learning curve and off the author goes into the esoterica that only the initiated can follow. Not here; the author takes you into very advanced material, but one step at a time, never pandering, never simplifying, but always sure to bring you along. It is like having your head peeled open and a picture of this incredible micro-universe poured in. It is like being programmed by the Matrix.

Further, and of course, the subject matter itself is incredible and awesome (both words used in their traditional sense) one is left with a helpless sense of wonder and enjoyment.

Highly recommended
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on July 9, 2012
This is going to be a review of the Kindle version, and specifically the Kindle version on an (original) iPad.

As to the book itself, this is the best textbook I've ever seen and is just a must-possess item for anyone with the slightest interest in biology.

And, wonder of wonders, the Kindle version turns out to be a MUST HAVE even at the price.

The print version of MBotC comes in two editions, the regular version and the Reference Edition which includes an extra five printed chapters (they're available as free PDF downloads if you only have the regular edition). The description of the Kindle version suggests that it only contains the 1392 pages of the regular edition, which would be incredibly annoying because why should you have to separately download five PDFs as a supplement to an already electronic book?

But it turns out that the Kindle version DOES include the full 1600 pages of the Reference Edition with all 25 chapters! The cover graphic lacks the "Reference Edition" text, but all the pages are there, and the page numbers match up exactly with the printed Reference Edition. So immediately the price starts to look a lot better when you compare it to the Reference Edition.

But it gets better.

The book looks gorgeous! It looks *exactly* like the printed book, and a full screen page on an iPad is very readable even though it's a couple inches (diagonally) smaller than the actual book. One of my worries was whether it could look anything like as sharp and readable as the real book. Well, it looks *perfect*! In fact, most of the illustrations are actually vector-based, and remain perfectly sharp as you zoom in. This also means that the book will probably look INCREDIBLE on a retina-display iPad as the text and most graphics will be able to render at the higher resolution I would expect. Even the raster-based illustrations are included at a very high DPI such that they too look as sharp as in the printed edition.

What more could you want? Well, the book is fully searchable which adds tremendous value over the dead-tree version. Also of course it weighs nothing compared to something like nine pounds for the printed Reference Edition.

This is a book that justifies buying an iPad or Kindle Fire just on its own.

One of the best (not to mention heaviest) books ever becomes the best Kindle book ever.

NOTE! that you MUST have an iPad, Kindle Fire, or PC/Mac to view this book, you cannot even install it on a regular (eInk) Kindle because you need a big color screen to view it on.

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on August 8, 2000
Well, considering that this book got me through a full year of molecular and cell biology as an undergraduate, I'm pretty fond of the book. Especially considering that the second half of the year was taught by two people who had never taught a class in their lives before. Reason for the five stars is that this is an INTRODUCTORY level textbook written about 7 years ago. Even considering that, it's thorough enough and comprehensive enough for an entire year. I wasn't expecting work done last year to be included and I wasn't expecting that it would delve into the intricate details of photosynthetic reaction centers or the latest in optical methods in single molecule dynamics. If you want that kind of detail, go to the journals or specialized texts. However, for those undergraduates undertaking a full year of MCB, I can't recommend this text highly enough. And if you're looking for prokaryotic information, I'd go pick up a copy of Prescott, Harley, and Klein's "Microbiology."
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on June 7, 2002
I've just finished reading this book and i feel this new edition is even better than it's predecessor, which is already not far from perfect. This well-known textbook is a comprehensive overview of what we have known about molecular cell biology, and what's more important is - every material here are treated very clearly and carefully, and this is where this book really shines - I even believe a layman with some elementary knowledge about chemistry and biology could not only read this book from cover to cover but also actually *understand* them.
Both the material and the references are quite up-to-date (not surprising), so don't hesitate to buy if you have the third edition.
I give it five stars because:
1) the authority is doubtless;
2) it's comprehensive, wide in scope;
3) the text is written in plain english, thus won't confuse students in the non-english speaking countries;
4) the figures are *really* excellent, IMHO better than any others that I have seen in other books;
5) the index is nice;
and some minor flaws:
The typesetting of "List of Topics" is somewhat... odd. There are no page numbers associate with the individual topics in that list too. Also I think the reference sections could be better.
So... let it be 4.5 stars.
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