edited by Barbara Beatty, Sabine Mai and Jeremy Squire
 Oxford University Press (2002) 225 pages. ISBN 0-19-963884-5
 £40 (paperback)

The fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) method has been around for a while and has previously been hidden away as a single chapter inside a Practical Approach series book – but no longer. The applications of FISH are now so wide and varied that this technique has managed to break away from its single chapter status to fill an entire book.

The level of technical expertise involved in each of the applications increases as you make your way through FISH: A Practical Approach. The essentials of FISH are covered in the first few chapters: these sections should help the novice to get started and include practical information outlining the different types of FISH probe you can use and the protocols used to prepare and label them. They also include some useful information on the principles of fluorescence and the commonly used fluors. The actual FISH procedure is covered in detail, with protocols describing how to prepare your target DNA to obtain really good metaphase chromosomes or interphase nuclei and how to perform high-resolution fibre FISH using chromatin extended to varying degrees. Perhaps most importantly, there is also a section on current web pages you can use to identify and obtain the FISH probes you will need to do these experiments.

The book then starts to get technical, moving on to the more challenging applications for which FISH has been utilised in the past few years. Of these,the ability to visualise the spatial organisation of the nucleus is the most visually arresting, and protocols are presented to allow the researcher to perform FISH on three-dimensionally preserved nuclei combined with detection of nuclear proteins and RNA transcripts. Although the methods are technically demanding, these chapters are well written and include lots of small but important details that should make the difference between getting the experiments to work and getting them to work really well.

The final few chapters emphasise the practical applications of FISH. Genome-wide screening of chromosomal abnormalities can be achieved using techniques such as comparative genomic hybridisation and multicolour FISH,whereas global gene expression levels can be analysed using microarrays. Those readers with an interest in clinical cytogenetics will also appreciate the detailed protocols within the specialised chapter on the current uses of FISH in clinical laboratories.

Its always easy to be critical when writing a review, but pretty much every new FISH application developed in the past few years seems to have been covered in FISH: A Practical Approach. The layout of the book is genuinely helpful, with a really handy list of protocols right at the beginning of the book, which is perfect for finding information on a certain topic without trailing through several chapters. The editors have also made an effort to avoid duplication of protocols in each of the chapters, with many chapters referring back to previous sections for the more common methods,although there are still a few different protocols for probe labelling scattered throughout the book. There is also a vast reading list at the end of each chapter for those of you who want to refer back to the primary literature. If forced to come up with one thing that I really didn't like about this book it would have to be the layout of the many wonderful FISH figures that accompany each of the protocols. In the soft cover version of the book, all the original colourful FISH images have been relegated to a central colour section and the actual chapters themselves only contain their poor greyscale counterparts. It's a small comment, but irritating when reading nonetheless. The editors state that the book is “intended to provide essential practical information for clinical, basic and student researchers” and as you would expect for a new title in the Practical Approach series, it is essentially a practical book for practical people. It has enough of the basics to be useful for the researcher with no experience in this field, but the more complex applications covered also make it a good choice for the more experienced FISH researcher.