Development? Genetics, Epigenetics and Environmental Regulation edited by V. E. A. Russo, D. J. Cove, L. G. Edgar, R. Jaenisch and F. Salamini Springer-Verlag (1999) pp. 542. ISBN 3–540-62754-5 51. 50/$89.95 One of the fascinations of development is the sheer complexity of the process. At a basic level, the goal is to produce an organism with a coherent form, composed of cells that are properly differentiated, and located at the proper positions relative to one another. To do this, even the simplest organism needs to employ myriad genetic interactions to regulate correctly the developmental process. Furthermore, it needs to be able to perpetuate the differences between genetically identical cells as the development of the organism progresses. Finally, it needs to respond to environmental cues that may play a role in determining how the organism develops. Development? Genetics, Epigenetics and Environmental Regulations addresses these three aspects of the development of various organisms in a series of chapters contributed by different authors. In the words of the editors, the aim of the collection is to “.cover key concepts, key approaches, and many of the key systems.” They also intend the book to be useful to students entering the field of development, by introducing a wide range of developmental problems in a variety of systems, thereby enabling them to decide upon an organism to study. For the most part, the book does justice to its stated goals. It is, however, important to keep in mind that it is very much a modern view of the genetic basis of development, with the operative words being genetic and modern. As a result, little or no mention is made of widely used model systems in which the study of genetics is difficult or impossible (such as the frog and chick), or of processes for which the genetic basis is not well understood. The text also does not deal with classical, but nevertheless instructive, experiments such as those on inductive tissue interactions, the fates of embryonic tissues, or the movements of sheets of cells. The book is divided into three sections, covering microbial systems (both prokaryotic and eukaryotic), plants and animals. The section on microbial systems has chapters on topics ranging from virus assembly to the control of the cell cycle in Asperigillus nidulans. Some of the other subjects covered in this section are the control of gene expression in prokaryotes, cell type determination in yeast, and the development of Myxobacteria. The second section begins with a chapter providing an overview of plant embryogenesis. This is followed by chapters that cover root development in Arabidopsis, flower development in Arabidopsis and Antirrhinum and leaf development in Maize. This section also has chapters dealing with endosperm development, the developmental response of plants to environmental light and the symbiotic relation between bacteria and plants. The third section, which makes up roughly half of the book, starts with four chapters on various aspects of development in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, including axis formation, cell fate determination and organogenesis. This is followed by chapters dealing with Drosophila axis formation, neurogenesis and imaginal disk development. Other chapters discuss vertebrate myogenesis, the role of neurotrophins in nervous system development, and olfactory receptor gene regulation. There are also chapters devoted solely to epigenetic phenomena such as X-chromosome inactivation, the role of imprinting in human disease, and DNA methylation as a mechanism for epigenetic modification. The individual chapters have a fairly consistent structure, each beginning with a brief introduction to the system under discussion before plunging into the details of the problem being studied. They all end with a brief discussion of where the current research is likely to lead in the future, and a summary of what was discussed in the chapter. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED)

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