Organization and Features of The Cell

The Cell has been designed to be an approachable and teachable text that can be covered in a single semester while allowing students to master the material in the entire book. It is assumed that most students will have had introductory biology and general chemistry courses, but will not have had previous courses in organic chemistry, biochemistry, or molecular biology. Several aspects of the organization and features of the book will help students to approach and understand its subject matter.


The Cell is divided into four parts, each of which is self-contained, so that the order and emphasis of topics can be easily varied according to the needs of individual courses. In covering this vast subject matter, however, I developed an organizational overview of the book, as described below.

Part I of the book provides background chapters on the evolution of cells, methods for studying cells, the chemistry of cells, and the fundamentals of modern molecular biology. For those students who have a strong background from either a comprehensive introductory biology course or a previous course in molecular biology, various parts of these chapters can be skipped or used for review.

Part II focuses on the molecular biology of cells and contains chapters dealing with genome organization; DNA replication, repair, and recombination; transcription and RNA processing; and the synthesis, processing, and regulation of proteins. The order of chapters follows the flow of genetic information (DNA → RNA → protein) and provides a concise but up-to- date overview of these topics.

Part III contains the core block of chapters on cell structure and function, including chapters on the nucleus, cytoplasmic organelles, the cytoskeleton, and the cell surface. This part of the book starts with coverage of the nucleus, which puts the molecular biology of Part II within the context of the eukaryotic cell, and then works outward through cytoplasmic organelles and the cytoskeleton to the plasma membrane. These chapters are relatively self-contained, however, and could be used in a different order should that be more appropriate for a particular course.

Finally, Part Four focuses on the exciting and fast-moving area of cell regulation, including coverage of topics such as cell signaling, the cell cycle, and programmed cell death. This part of the book concludes with a chapter on cancer, my own field of research, which synthesizes the consequences of defects in basic cell regulatory link


Several pedagogical features have been incorporated into The Cell in order to help students master and integrate its contents. These features are reviewed below as a guide to students studying from this book.

Chapter organization. Each chapter is divided into four or five major sections, which are further divided into a similar number of subsections. An outline listing the major sections at the beginning of each chapter provides a brief overview of its contents.

Key Terms and Glossary. Key terms are identified as boldfaced words when they are introduced in each chapter. These key terms are reiterated in the chapter summary and defined in the glossary at the end of the book.

Illustrations and micrographs. An illustration program of full-color art and micrographs has been carefully developed to complement and visually reinforce the text.

Key Experiment and Molecular Medicine essays. Each chapter contains one Key Experiment and one Molecular Medicine feature. These essays are designed to provide the student with a sense of both the experimental basis of cell and molecular biology and its applications to modern medicine.

Chapter Summaries. Chapter summaries are organized in outline form corresponding to the major sections and subsections of each chapter. This section-by-section format is coupled with a list of the key terms introduced in each section, providing a succinct but comprehensive review of the material.

Questions and Answers. Questions at the end of each chapter (with answers in the back of the book) are designed to further facilitate review by calling for students to understand and integrate the material presented in the chapter and to use this material to predict or interpret experimental results.

References. Comprehensive lists of references at the end of each chapter provide access to both reviews and selected papers from the primary literature. In order to help the student identify articles of interest, the references are organized according to chapter sections. Review articles and primary papers are distinguished by [R] and [P] designations, respectively

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