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The Molecules of Life

Physical and Chemical Principles

John Kuriyan, Boyana Konforti, David Wemmer
Publication Date:
July 25, 2012
Content Details:
900 illustrations

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List Price:   $157.00

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  • About the Book

    Book Summary

    The field of biochemistry is entering an exciting era in which genomic information is being integrated into molecular-level descriptions of the physical processes that make life possible.

    The Molecules of Life is a new textbook that provides an integrated physical and biochemical foundation for undergraduate students majoring in biology or health sciences. This new generation of molecular biologists and biochemists will harness the tools and insights of physics and chemistry to exploit the emergence of genomics and systems-level information in biology, and will shape the future of medicine.

    The book integrates fundamental concepts in thermodynamics and kinetics with an introduction to biological mechanism at the level of molecular structure. The central theme is that the ways in which proteins, DNA, and RNA work together in a cell are connected intimately to the structures of these biological macromolecules. The structures, in turn, depend on interactions between the atoms in these molecules, and on the interplay between energy and entropy, which results in the remarkable ability of biological systems to self-assemble and control their own replication.

    The Molecules of Life deepens our understanding of how life functions by illuminating the physical principles underpinning many complex biological phenomena, including how nerves transmit signals, the actions of chaperones in protein folding, and how polymerases and ribosomes achieve high fidelity.


      • Noteworthy biological examples, many building from seminal discoveries, with key terms highlighted throughout the text.
      • Important calculations and derivations explained in boxes.
      • Qualitative and quantitative end-of-chapter problems, with selected solutions available online to students.
      • Chapter summaries, with key concepts delineated by chapter section.
      • Further reading and references at the end of each chapter.


      "This is an excellent book that does exactly what it says on the front cover. The book is indeed written in what is now the standard format of a student textbook: very clear presentation with good graphics; special points highlighted in shaded boxes; with problems and suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter."
      - British Society for Cell Biology Newsletter, January 2013

       "With its quantitative approach and step-by-step derivations of key equations, this book prepares students in biology and health sciences well for the increasingly quantitative approaches in biology....this is an excellent learning resource for anyone interested in the mechanism and function of biomolecules. The particular strengths of the book are the authors’ clear and didactic writing style, the excellent figures, and the connection of biophysical principles to current research questions....Kuriyan et al.’s comprehensive undergraduate textbook addresses the future quantitative and physics requirements for students to go on to careers in health care or biomedical research…"

      - Quarterly Review of Biology, August 2013

      "This detailed paperback, written for undergraduates, starts with straightforward explanations that may also appeal to enthusiastic pre-university students. Biologists in other disciplines will also welcome the information on chemical structure and the molecular mechanisms in biology....It certainly provides a fine reference book for those trying to keep up with the vast amount of new information becoming available in this important area of biological science. I strongly recommend it."

      - The Biologist, April/May 2013

      "The Molecules of Life is an excellent introductory text from Garland Science with an emphasis on the physical and mathematical principles underpinning structure and function of biological macromolecules...This textbook fills a conspicuous void in university-level biology curricula....As would be expected from the eminent crystallographer John Kuriyan, the book is eloquently written and progresses in a clear and logical fashion."

      -Crystallography Reviews, August 2014

      "The text is eloquently written and scattered with high-resolution images and easily interpreted figures and diagrams....The Molecules of Life is ideal for beginning undergraduate or graduate students with a background in biochemistry, physics, and differential equations who wish to begin understanding the physical basis of life....For instructors and professors looking to prepare their students to ask important questions in the quantitative world that awaits the future of biomedical research, The Molecules of Life: Physical and Chemical Properties is an excellent selection." –Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, March 2015


  • Contents

    Part I. Biological Molecules
    1. From Genes to RNA to Proteins
    2. Nucleic Acid Structure
    3. Glycans and Lipids
    4. Protein Structure
    5. Evolutionary Variation in Proteins

    Part II. Energy and Entropy
    6. Energy and Intermolecular Forces
    7. Entropy 
    8. Linking Energy and Entropy

    Part III. Free Energy
    9. Free Energy
    10. Chemical Potential and the Drive to Equilibrium
    11. Voltages and Free Energy

    Part IV. Molecular Interactions
    12. Molecular Recognition 
    13. Specificity of Macromolecular Recognition
    14. Allostery

    Part V. Kinetics and Catalysis
    15. Rates of Molecular Processes
    16. Principles of Enzyme Catalysis
    17. Diffusion and Transport

    Part VI. Assembly and Activity
    18. Folding
    19. Fidelity in DNA and Protein Synthesis

  • Instructor Resources

    Instructor Resources

    For the following resources, verified instructors can visit the resource page for The Molecules of Life.

    Images from the book available in JPEG and PowerPoint formats.

    Solutions Manual
    A solutions manual will be available for chapter problems.


  • Student Resources

    Student Resources

    For the following resources, students can visit the resource page for The Molecules of Life.

    Online flashcards.

    Answers to selected problems will be provided.


  • E-book and Custom Pub

    E-book and Custom Publishing


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    Purchase in North America

    Purchase in North America

    Garland Science Custom Publishing gives educators the ability to create their own course materials for use in the classroom-in e-book and/or print format. Faculty have complete control over what is added and may add chapters from Garland Science textbooks, web articles and blog postings, and self-authors content in PDF or Word format. Our site provides real-time copyright clearance, the ability to see a running total price as you build your book, and a cost savings for students.

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  • Downloads

    Samples & Downloads

    Click here to download the Detailed Table of Contents from the book.

    Click any of the links below to download a printable PDF of a sample chapter.

    Chapter 1: How Do We Understand Life?