Essential Cell Biology

Essential Cell Biology

Alberts, Bray, Hopkin, Johnson, Lewis, Raff, Roberts, Walter
Published in: Garland Science
Release Year: 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8153-4455-1
Pages: 863
Edition: Fourth Edition
File Size: 48 MB
File Type: pdf
Language: English

Description of Essential Cell Biology

In our world there is no form of matter more astonishing than the living cell: tiny, fragile, marvelously intricate, continually made afresh, yet preserving in its DNA a record of information dating back more than three billion years, to a time when our planet had barely cooled from the hot materials of the nascent solar system. Ceaselessly re-engineered and diversified by evolution, extraordinarily versatile and adaptable, the cell retains a complex core of self-replicating chemical machinery that is shared and endlessly repeated by every living organism on the face of the Earth—in every animal, every leaf, every bacterium in a piece of cheese, every yeast in a vat of wine.
Curiosity, if nothing else, should drive us to study cell biology; we need to understand cell biology to understand ourselves. But there are practical reasons, too, why cell biology should be a part of everyone’s education. We are made of cells, we feed on cells, and our world is made habitable by cells. The challenge for scientists is to deepen our knowledge of cells and find new ways to apply it. All of us, as citizens, need to know something of the subject to grapple with the modern world, from our own health affairs to the great public issues of environmental change, biomedical technologies, agriculture, and epidemic disease. Cell biology is a big subject, and it has links with almost every other branch of science. The study of cell biology, therefore, provides a great scientific education. However, as science advances, it becomes increasingly easy to become lost in detail, distracted by an overload of information and technical terminology. In Essential Cell Biology book, we, therefore, focus on providing a digestible, straightforward, and engaging account of only the essential principles. We seek to explain, in a way that can be understood even by a reader approaching biology for the first time, how the living cell works: to show how the molecules of the cell—especially the protein, DNA, and RNA molecules—cooperate to create this remarkable system that feeds, responds to stimuli, moves, grows, divides, and duplicates itself.
The need for a clear account of the essentials of cell biology became apparent to us while we were writing Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC), now in its fifth edition. MBoC is a large book aimed at advanced undergraduates and graduate students specializing in the life sciences or medicine. Many students and educated laypeople who require an introductory account of cell biology would find MBoC too detailed for their needs. Essential Cell Biology (ECB), in contrast, is designed to provide the fundamentals of cell biology that are required by anyone to understand both the biomedical and the broader biological issues that affect our lives.
Essential Cell Biology's fourth edition has been extensively revised. We have brought every part of the book up to date, with new material on regulatory RNAs, induced pluripotent stem cells, cell suicide and reprogramming, the human genome, and even Neanderthal DNA. In response to student feedback, we have improved our discussions of photosynthesis and DNA repair. We have added many new figures and have updated our coverage of many exciting new experimental techniques—including RNAi, optogenetics, the applications of new DNA sequencing technologies, and the use of mutant organisms to probe the defects underlying human disease. At the same time, our “How We Know” sections continue to present experimental data and design, illustrating with specific examples of how biologists tackle important questions and how their experimental results shape future ideas.
As before, the diagrams in ECB emphasize central concepts and are stripped of unnecessary details. The key terms introduced in each chapter are highlighted when they first appear and are collected together at the end of the book in a large, illustrated glossary. A central feature of the book is the many questions that are presented in the text margins and at the end of each chapter. These are designed to provoke students to think carefully about what they have read, encouraging them to pause and test their understanding. Many questions challenge the student to place the newly acquired information in a broader biological context, and some have more than one valid answer. Others invite speculation. Answers to all the questions are given at the end of the book; in many cases, these provide commentary or an alternative perspective on the material presented in the main text.
For those who want to develop their active grasp of cell biology further, we recommend Molecular Biology of the Cell, Fifth Edition: A Problems Approach, by John Wilson and Tim Hunt. Though written as a companion to MBoC, Essential Cell Biology book contains questions at all levels of difficulty and contains a goldmine of thought-provoking problems for teachers and students. We have drawn upon it for some of the questions in ECB, and we are very grateful to its authors.
The explosion of new imaging and computer technologies continues to provide fresh and spectacular views of the inner workings of living cells. We have captured some of this excitement in the new Essential Cell Biology website, located at This site, which is freely available to anyone in the world with an interest in cell biology, contains over 150 video clips, animations, molecular structures, and high-resolution micrographs—all designed to complement the material in individual book chapters. One cannot watch cells crawling, dividing, segregating their chromosomes, or rearranging their surface without a sense of wonder at the molecular mechanisms that underlie these processes. For a vivid sense of the marvel that science reveals, it is hard to match the narrated movie of DNA replication. These resources have been carefully designed to make the learning of cell biology both easier and more rewarding.
Those who seek references for further reading will find them on the ECB student and instructor websites. But for the very latest reviews in the current literature, we suggest the use of web-based search engines, such as PubMed ( or Google Scholar ( As with MBoC, each chapter of ECB is the product of a communal effort, with individual drafts circulating from one author to another. In addition, many people have helped us, and these are credited in the Acknowledgments that follow. Despite our best efforts, it is inevitable that there will be errors in the Essential Cell Biology book.

Content of Essential Cell Biology

Chapter 1 Cells: The Fundamental Units of Life 1
Panel 1–1 Microscopy 10–11
Panel 1–2 Cell Architecture 25
How We Know: Life’s Common Mechanisms 30–31
Chapter 2 Chemical Components of Cells 39
How We Know: What Are Macromolecules? 60–61
Panel 2–1 Chemical Bonds and Groups 66–67
Panel 2–2 The Chemical Properties of Water 68–69
Panel 2–3 An Outline of Some of the Types of Sugars 70–71
Panel 2–4 Fatty Acids and Other Lipids 72–73
Panel 2–5 The 20 Amino Acids Found in Proteins 74–75
Panel 2–6 A Survey of the Nucleotides 76–77
Panel 2–7 The Principal Types of Weak Noncovalent Bonds 78–79
Chapter 3 Energy, Catalysis, and Biosynthesis 83
Panel 3–1 Free Energy and Biological Reactions 96–97
How We Know: Measuring Enzyme Performance 104–106
Chapter 4 Protein Structure and Function 121
Panel 4–1 A Few Examples of Some General Protein Functions 122
Panel 4–2 Making and Using Antibodies 146–147
How We Know: Probing Protein Structure 162–163
Panel 4–3 Cell Breakage and Initial Fractionation of Cell Extracts 164–165
Panel 4–4 Protein Separation by Chromatography 166
Panel 4–5 Protein Separation by Electrophoresis 167
Chapter 5 DNA and Chromosomes 171
How We Know: Genes Are Made of DNA 174–176
Chapter 6 DNA Replication, Repair, and Recombination 197
How We Know: The Nature of Replication 200–202
Chapter 7 From DNA to Protein: How Cells Read the Genome 223
How We Know: Cracking the Genetic Code 240–241
Chapter 8 Control of Gene Expression 261
How We Know: Gene Regulation—the Story of Eve 274–275
Chapter 9 How Genes and Genomes Evolve 289
How We Know: Counting Genes 316–317
Chapter 10 Modern Recombinant DNA Technology 325
How We Know: Sequencing The Human Genome 344–345
Chapter 11 Membrane Structure 359
How We Know: Measuring Membrane Flow 378–379
Chapter 12 Transport Across Cell Membranes 383
How We Know: Squid Reveal Secrets of Membrane Excitability 406–407
Chapter 13 How Cells Obtain Energy From Food 419
Panel 13–1 Details of the 10 Steps of Glycolysis 428–429
Panel 13–2 The Complete Citric Acid Cycle 434–435
How We Know: Unraveling the Citric Acid Cycle 436–437
Chapter 14 Energy Generation in Mitochondria and Chloroplasts 447
How We Know: How Chemiosmotic Coupling Drives ATP Synthesis 462–463
Panel 14–1 Redox Potentials 466
Chapter 15 Intracellular Compartments and Protein Transport 487
How We Know: Tracking Protein and Vesicle Transport 512–513
Chapter 16 Cell Signaling 525
How We Know: Untangling Cell Signaling Pathways 556–557
Chapter 17 Cytoskeleton 565
How We Know: Pursuing Microtubule-Associated Motor Proteins 580–581
Chapter 18 The Cell-Division Cycle 603
How We Know: Discovery of Cyclins and Cdks 609–610
Panel 18–1 The Principal Stages of M Phase in an Animal Cell 622–623
Chapter 19 Sexual Reproduction and the Power of Genetics 645
Panel 19–1 Some Essentials of Classical Genetics 669
How We Know: Using SNPs To Get a Handle on Human Disease 676–677
Chapter 20 Cell Communities: Tissues, Stem Cells, and Cancer 683
How We Know: Making Sense of the Genes That Are Critical for Cancer 722–723
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