Taken as a whole the book is a good update on the state of angiosperm embryogenesis research. The chapters cover the full range of embryo development from the asymmetric first division to the development of desiccation tolerance. The chapters by D.W. Meinke ("Embryo-defective mutants of Arabidopsis: cellular functions of disrupted genes and developmental significance of mutant phenotypes"), J.K. Clark ("Maize embryogenesis mutants"), and Brown et al. ("The reprogrammed embryo: the endosperm as a quick route to understanding embryogenesis?") are particularly well written and interesting.
With the exception of the Meinke chapter mentioned above, the Arabidopsis chapters are disappointing. These chapters devote much attention to describing the currently known Arabidopsis embryogenesis mutants and discussing the latest techniques. Little attention is given to connections between the mutations and their roles in the pattern formation, morphogenesis, and differentiation of the embryo. Since this is a book on embryogenesis, I was expecting more discussion of the actual development of the embryogeny and less of a laundry list of mutants and fancy techniques.
My other concern about the Arabidopsis chapters centers on the sloppy use of anatomical terminology. Consider, for example, the following sentence: "During the following division and cell expansion events the globular stage embryo develops, which includes the epidermis precursor, root primordium, ground tissue and elongated vascular cell precursors and two layers of apical cells in the upper part of the embryo." What has become of the three primary meristems? Protoderm is the "epidermis precursor." "Ground tissue" is actually the ground meristem since the cells are not mature in the globular stage embryo. Procambium cells are the "vascular cell precursors." Plant development is a complex process, which demands clear use of terminology to be understood.
As stated on the back cover of the book, the intended audience is "advanced undergraduates, postgraduates, and researchers interested in plant development." I would be surprised if it reaches such a large audience. The chapters of the book are too narrowly focused to be of much interest to people outside of plant molecular embryogenesis. Although
this book is a good update on the state of embryogenesis research, I will not be giving up my copy of An Introduction to the Embryology of Angiosperms by P. Maheshwari. - Jim Farrar, Department of Botany, Weber State University, Ogden, UT 84408-2504
Membranes: Specialized Functions in Plants. M. Smallwood, J.P. Knox, and D. Bowles, eds. 1996. ISBN 1-85996-200-9 (cloth US$180) 608 pp. Bios Scientific Publishers, Ltd. P.O. Box 605, Herndon VA 22070
Membranes: Specialized Functions in Plants. M. Smallwood, J.P. Knox, and D. Bowles, eds. 1996. ISBN 1-85996-200-9 (cloth US$180) 608 pp. Bios Scientific Publishers, Ltd. P.O. Box 605, Herndon VA 22070- It is refreshing to see an effort directed toward summarizing recent advances in understanding of the plant membranes. The review chapters in this book are clearly written by professionals in their respective fields and they contain recent information on various aspects of membrane structure and function. There are thirty one chapters organized in six sections. The presented mélange of subjects includes metabolism of membrane components, regulation of membrane permeability, biogenesis and functioning of endomembrane systems, and plasmodesmata. Some chapters consider the role of membranes in processes such as pollination, stress (plasmolysis), ion transport, cell adhesion and cell to cell communication. Also included are chapters on cellulose and callose synthesis. Other chapters discuss signal perception at the plasma membrane, and examine the possible membrane-associated early components in a signaling cascade (receptors, ion channels and pumps, binding proteins, G-proteins, protein kinases). Novel information on the role of the endoplasmic reticulum and plasmodesmata in plasmolysis is presented. The endomembrane system and associated protein targeting and vesicle trafficking are thoroughly discussed in seven chapters, including two chapters on development of chloroplasts.
It is certainly not easy to fit such large amounts of information on plant membranes into a single volume. The size limits of the book perhaps influenced the editors' decision not to include a chapter on mitochondrial membranes, and to limit the amount of presented information on voltage- and hormone (ligand)-gated channels, as well as on the potassium transporter. A chapter that is on the margins of belonging to this book is the one on the role ofjasmonates in signaling and gene expression, since its only commonality with the main topic of this book is the fact thatjasmonates are derived from membrane lipids.
The book closes with three informative chapters on the role of plant membranes in symbiotic relationships (with Rhizobium bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi) and in plant-pathogen interactions (during fungal disease). The technical quality of both the text and the photographs is high. Overall the book presents a fine compilation of recent advances related to plant membrane structure and function. Given the significance of membranes for many facets of plant cell functioning and development, many a plant biologists will find this book a useful reference tool. - Bratislav Stankovic, Department of Plant Biology, Ohio State University, Columbus OH 43210