edited by Kevin Moses Springer-Verlag (2002) 282 pages. ISBN 3-540-42590-X £97.50/$149
Knowledge of Drosophila eye development has grown almost exponentially over the past few decades. Not only are the mechanisms that account for the formation of this multifaceted structure intrinsically interesting in their own right, but they have also contributed enormously to our understanding of general developmental paradigms and molecular pathways. The explosion in research into the Drosophila eye was sparked principally by the groups of Seymour Benzer and Gerry Rubin, and it is primarily their offspring who have contributed the chapters to the recent volume Drosophila Eye Development (Vol. 37 in the series Results and Problems in Cell Differentiation), edited by Kevin Moses.
Each chapter in the book is a stand-alone review making it possible to readup on individual topics. These range from the earliest establishment of the eye-field to retinal connections, colour vision and Drosophila as a model for disease, and together give a fairly comprehensive overview of the current areas of interest in this field. Reading the book from cover to cover is slightly problematic. There was quite a lot of repetition in the early chapters, which describe early patterning genes; TGF-β and Hedgehog signalling featured in several places too. These chapters created a modicum of confusion since the conclusions seemed to differ slightly. Beyond these early chapters we were hooked by a wide range of contributions that each touch on a different problem. Particularly refreshing were those topics that we had not come across in other reviews, such as the evolution of colour vision and applications to human disease modelling. The latter chapter starts with a good, succinct overview of some of the major contributions made through studies of the eye and would be a useful chapter to give to upper-level undergraduates to illustrate the diversity of applications of this model.
The book, therefore, provides a valuable introduction to an important paradigm in developmental biology. As a whole it might not be of immediate relevance to cell biologists, although chapters on regulation of growth and proliferation, protein stability, and programmed cell death would be of interest to cell and developmental biologists alike. In addition there is one gem by Don Ready about the emergence of form in the eye, which describes the progression in cell shapes and cell contacts that occur as the eye develops. This short essay highlights some of the amazing changes in cell morphology and considers how these could contribute forces that shape the geometrical regularity of the Drosophila compound eye.
There is a danger that the book will become dated as the field progresses,and so those chapters with a well-rounded historical perspective are likely to be the ones that better stand the test of time. Some of the chapters tend to focus on the most recent findings, whereas others, even amongst the better known topics, manage to achieve a balance between the two. Occasionally, we found ourselves wanting more debate on the differing current models and controversies, but the extensive reference lists should allow readers to explore these for themselves. The quality of figures used to illustrate each chapter also varies considerably. Those comparing vertebrate and Drosophila eye development are exceptionally good, particularly the colour diagrams. The chapter on cell death is also nicely illustrated, but in some others the figures are thin on the ground, which makes sections a bit dry or hard to follow.
With contributions from many key researchers in the field, this book provides an excellent reference text for those already working with the Drosophila eye and, for those about to, it conveys a fascination for the eye and the intricacy of its development. The only major shortcoming is its cover price (almost £100), which means that a book that many might like to have on their personal bookshelves will instead be confined largely to library shelves.