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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: David F Lindsey, PhD (Walla Walla University)
Description: This book examines the role of the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway and its downstream regulatory targets in the development of the posterior nervous system, which includes the hindbrain, spinal cord, and neural crest cells.
Purpose: The authors integrate current knowledge from several vertebrate model organisms concerning the role of Wnt in posterior neural development. This is an important contribution to a complex field.
Audience: This book will likely be most valuable to postgraduates entering this field of research. However, it could serve a focused graduate-level course or be helpful in providing supplemental information to the instructor of an advanced undergraduate course.
Features: Early in the book, the authors explore evidence that establishes Wnt as a caudalizing factor in neural development. After discussing the formation of the midbrain-hindbrain border, the book addresses hindbrain induction and spinal cord induction, and what might discriminate between these fates along the antero-posterior axis. Throughout the review, the authors expertly discuss the complex interactions between the Wnt, Fgf, and retinoic acid signaling pathways in patterning the posterior nervous system. The review provides a systematic and comprehensive summary of the evidence for the role of Wnt and downstream targets in several vertebrate model organisms. The gene regulatory network depicted in figure 5.1 and the model for hindbrain versus spinal cord specification in figure 7.1 are especially helpful in summarizing the current knowledge. Unfortunately, the key points of several chapters are difficult to identify. Nevertheless, the authors do a remarkably good job of exploring such a complex process.
Assessment: In my view, the level (not too detailed) and organization of the experimental results reviewed in this book is ideal for advanced undergraduate or graduate students. Students may see the connection between experimental data and conclusions, as well as the challenge of connecting pieces of a complex regulatory mechanism, and of reconciling conflicting results while searching for conserved regulatory networks. Despite this, the book is unlikely to engage a wide range of students because the extensive volume of information - the overwhelming number of experiments - is often presented without sufficient context. The reading becomes very tedious when the key points do not stand out and many chapters suffer from the lack of a succinct summary. The student or anyone new to the field would likely benefit from a convenient list or table of abbreviations such as AC, MHB, and MO. These are sometimes, but not always defined at the beginning of a chapter, and can quickly escape memory. A table, such as table 11.1 near the beginning of the book, would provide a useful reference as one reads through the review and encounters the many players in this complex process.