Cell and molecular biology is one of the most rapidly moving areas of the life sciences, and a number of substantial advances have been made since the first edition of The Cell was published in 1997. Particularly noteworthy progress has been made in the area of genome sequencing: We now know the complete sequences not only of yeast and bacterial genomes but also of C. elegans and Drosophila melanogaster, as well as much of the genomic sequence of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Projects directed toward sequencing the human genome have also moved forward rapidly, and completion of the human genome sequence can be confidently anticipated in the near future. These advances in genome sequencing are opening whole new approaches to understanding the regulation and function of cells, and they will undoubtedly provide a new database upon which much of the future research in molecular and cell biology will be built.

There have been significant advances in the understanding of several aspects of the molecular biology of eukaryotic cells-the mechanisms that control the initiation of DNA replication have been elucidated, studies of histone acetylation have provided a clear link between chromatin structure and transcriptional regulation, and new mechanisms of translational regulation have been described. Substantial progress has similarly been made in understanding a variety of aspects of protein trafficking, including nuclear import and export, the pathways of protein import to the endoplasmic reticulum and transport to the Golgi apparatus, the molecular mechanisms of vesicular transport, and the mechanisms of protein import into mitochondria and chloroplasts. The exciting areas of cell signaling and cell cycle regulation have also continued to rapidly move forward, with particularly noteworthy progress being made in understanding the regulation of programmed cell death and the signaling pathways that control cell fate during embryonic development. These advances in basic science have been coupled with progress in medically-related areas, including the potential use of stem cells to replace damaged human tissue and the development of new anticancer drugs targeted against specific oncogene proteins.

The second edition of The Cell has been completely updated to include these exciting advances and to present the most current information available. The goals and distinguishing features of The Cell, however, remain unchanged from the first edition. The Cell continues to be a basic text that provides an accessible introduction for undergraduate or medical students who are taking a first course on cell and molecular biology. My principal goal has been to provide an accessible and readable book that can be approached and mastered by undergraduate students, while still being intellectually gratifying and conveying the excitement and challenges of research in contemporary molecular and cellular biology.

As in the first edition, The Cell is focused on the molecular biology of cells as a unifying theme, with specialized topics discussed throughout the book as examples of more general principles. Aspects of developmental biology, the immune system, the nervous system, and plant biology are thus discussed in their broader biological context in chapters covering areas such as genome structure, gene expression, DNA rearrangements, the plasma membrane, cell signaling, and the cell cycle. Relationships between cell biology and medicine are similarly discussed throughout the text, as well as being highlighted in the Molecular Medicine essays that are included as a special feature in each chapter. These discussions illustrate the striking impact of molecular and cellular biology on human health, and are intended to stimulate as well as inform those students interested in medicine.

Since The Cell deals with one of the most rapidly progressing areas of biology, it remains critical for students not only to have the most current information available, but also to understand the experimental nature of contemporary research in cell and molecular biology. With this goal in mind, representative experiments are discussed throughout the text to illustrate the kinds of approaches upon which our current understanding has been built. In addition, each chapter contains a Key Experiment essay that describes a seminal paper and its background in detail, with the intent of giving the reader a sense of “doing science.” Finally, I have tried to point out the limits of our knowledge and to identify outstanding unanswered questions throughout the text. I hope that, together, these approaches give the student an appreciation of the ways in which progress in understanding the cell has been made, and convey the excitement and challenges of participating in this frontier of scientific exploration.

geoffrey m. cooper

May 2000

This book is dedicated to Howard M. Temin (1934-1994), whom I was privileged to know as a teacher, mentor, and friend.

© 2000 by Geoffrey M. Cooper


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