E.M. Meyerowitz & C. R. Somerville (eds)

Cold Spring Harbor Monograph 27, 1300 pp (1994)

Reviewed by Bernard Mulligan, Dept Life Science, Nottingham University, Nottingham, UK.
The 40 chapters of Arabidopsis are grouped into five sections, genetics, development, growth, biotic & abiotic stress, biochemistry & cell biology, which review recent research advances with our favourite weed. All the authors are well known in the Arabidopsis research world.

The first section on Arabidopsis genetics begins with a discussion of systematics of Arabidopsis and its relatives, which takes into account both more recent molecular taxonomical studies and the earlier literature. The structure, function and evolution of the nuclear and cytoplasmic genomes are then considered. The authors highlight current strategies in genome characterization, including physical mapping, cDNA and genome sequencing and molecular cytology. Gene and physical maps of the cytoplasmic genomes are presented. Then follows a detailed review of the procedures available for genetic analysis; genetic maps based on classical markers and RFLP markers are provided, together with a version of the integrated map. A discussion of classical and molecular methods of mutagenesis provides some useful pointers to planning and executing mutagenesis experiments. The potential of quantitative genetics is explored as a means of helping to indentify genes controlling much of the phenotypic variation available among the collected ecotypes. The diverse and dispersed information on Arabidopsis tissue culture and transformation is brought into a manageable focus in the following chapter. The section concludes with a history of Arabidopsis genetics.

Arabidopsis development is covered by discussions of the developmental genetics of embryo and seed development, seed dormancy and germination. Research on roots, the vegetative meristem and leaves are examined in the following chapters. Flowers are represented by articles on the transition to flowering, flower development and aspects of reproduction from pollination to fertilization. This section of the book would surely convince even the most hardened sceptic that the international focus on Arabidopsis as a model plant system has ben worthwhile and will continue to pay rich dividends.

The reviews dealing with growth, celebrate the recent progress made in the understanding of growth regulator biosynthesis and mode of action. Chapters on ethylene, gibberellin and abscisic acid, and auxin and cytokinin summarize these advances, placing the results obtained with Arabidopsis alongside the knowledge gained from other species. The genetic analysis of phytochrome action in Arabidopsis receives a detailed account and is followed by a discussion of the current state of knowledge of circadian rhythms. The potential of Arabidopsis for helping to unravel the long recognized but poorly understood tropic responses of plants is assessed. Finally, the modulation of root growth by physical stimuli and the genetic analysis of these responses are considered.

Recent work in the genetics of host/microbial pathogen interactions in Arabidopsis has been particularly impressive. This research receives a thorough scrutiny in the section devoted to biotic & abiotic stress. The growing interest in Arabidopsis as a model for studying plant viruses and nematodes is also considered. This section also covers studies on molecular responses to environmental stress and the molecular basis of cold tolerance.

Areas of plant biochemistry & cell biology in which Arabidopsis researchers have made important advances include the enzymology and control of biosynthesis of amino acids, nucleotides and vitamins, and the biochemistry and functions of lipids, starch, waxes and secondary metabolites. The remaining contributions to this section include reviews of the molecular biology and genetics of photosynthesis, inorganic second messengers, inorganic nutrient uptake and finally, the cytoskeleton and the cell wall.

How to get access to electronic information about Arabidopsis is the subject of the first, straightforward and concise appendix. Appendix 2 provides an updated version of the "Green Book" of genetic variations of Arabidopsis.

The authors and editors have done an excellent job in distilling the essential features of their research areas and making these accessible to a wide audience. Their soothsayer's eye view should help to prolong the shelf life of the book, which will become an indispensible text for advanced students of plant biology and professional researchers alike. Arabidopsis, the book, provides a panoramic, beautifully illustrated, view of a diverse and rapidly advancing research activity. Given the pace of current progress, however, Arabidopsis, the second edition, or even the film, cannot be far behind.