Book review


Biochemistry Laboratory: Modern Theory and Techniques, Second Edition Rodney Boyer, Prentice Hall, 2012, 384 pp., ISBN-13 978-0-13-604302-7; ISBN-10 0-13-604302-X (paperback, $62.00).

Ann Taylor*, * Department of Chemistry, Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana 47933.

“Biochemistry Laboratory, Modern Theory and Practices” is a companion handbook for the biochemistry laboratory. It provides descriptions and the theoretical basis of common techniques, allowing it to be used as an accompanying text to any number of laboratory activities, including more open ended, problem based laboratory experiments or research based laboratory curricula [1, 2]. Each chapter contains study exercises integrated into the text (some with worked out solutions) and end of the chapter study problems. The answers to the odd problems are available in the back of the book.

The first chapter is an overview of basic skills needed for any biochemical laboratory activity, including safety, record keeping, solution preparation, pipetting, and statistical analysis. It includes an explanation of different water purification methods and when they are appropriate. The statistical techniques focus on mean, standard deviation, and the 95% confidence interval.

The second chapter is significantly revised from the first edition and provides an overview of conducting background research including using computers in Biochemistry. Much of the “Using Computers in Biochemistry” section, however, consists of definitions that most of the readers are familiar with, such as Internet, Ethernet, freeware, web browser, HTML, and Google. However, it does provide helpful lists of directories, databases, and online tools, with the caveat that the addresses are susceptible to web rot.

Chapter 3 focuses on general laboratory procedures, including buffers and pH, determination of protein and nucleic acid concentrations, dialysis and concentration techniques, and radioactivity. The buffer and pH section includes a good explanation of the use of electrodes (including both pH and oxygen electrodes), a derivation of the Henderson–Hasselbalch equation, and a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of commonly used buffer systems. There are useful tables of properties of common buffer systems, and explanations of linear and serial dilutions. The measurement of protein solutions section includes comparisons of the Biuret, Lowry, Bradford, BCA, and A280 methods, including possible interferences.

Subsequent chapters focus on particular techniques commonly used in biomolecular applications, including centrifugation (Chapter 4), chromatography techniques (Chapter 5), electrophoresis (Chapter 6), spectrometry (Chapter 7), binding interactions and catalysis (Chapter 8), nucleic acids (Chapter 9), recombinant DNA and cloning (Chapter 10), and protein purification (Chapter 11). The binding interactions and catalysis chapter seems out of order, as one would need to purify either the protein or DNA of interest before conducting binding or kinetic experiments. The chapters provide overviews of the technique, general steps of the procedure, analysis of typical results, potential complications or problems that may be encountered, and end of the chapter problems. The procedures are overviews, not actual protocols, so another resource would need to be consulted for experimental design. However, it is in keeping with the spirit of the book: a resource to accompany detailed laboratory procedures (from the literature or otherwise) that explains how the techniques work. The appendices provide useful information, including buffer information, molecular weights of common proteins, common abbreviations used in biomolecular work, units of measurement, and a table of elements (though a periodic table may have been a more concise way to present that information).

All together, this book succeeds in its purpose of offering a resource that describes the theories and processes used in the biomolecular lab. It would be highly useful for the biomolecular teaching or beginning research laboratory. Its cost ($62 on Amazon) should not be prohibitive but might require actual homework assigned from it to convince students to purchase it. The availability of online resources is useful, assuming the publisher keeps the links updated.