Macromolecular structure determination, which encompasses crystallographic pursuits undertaken from the mid-1930s to the present, has yielded scientific discoveries often considered to be the cornerstone upon which our understanding of the fundamentals of life can be built. As the technology and information renaissance has evolved, the spotlight has been cast upon the need for a deeper understanding of the mysteries locked within the structure of macromolecular systems and for knowledgeable and astute practitioners of diffraction science whom hold the keys to unlock those secrets. In order to properly train the next generation of structural biologists educated in crystallography, it is essential to have a modern reference volume which deftly unites the various topics critical to this field of science. Such a need has been addressed by Biomolecular Crystallography, which not only focuses on the key elements essential for any crystallographic textbook, such as crystal growth, the physics of diffraction, symmetry, the phase problem, model building, refinement and validation, but also includes information useful for the practicing structural biologist, such as protein production and engineering, bioinformatics and structure-based drug design.
As a crystallographer myself, I was especially intrigued by the organization of the volume which is reminiscent of a crystallographic structural determination. The books thirteen chapters, further arranged into five parts, cover various topics as one proceeds from a protein sequence to a crystal, the fundamentals of protein crystallography, data collection, structure determination and interpreting your structure. In all chapters, the educational value of this text is further enforced by boxes which highlight important concepts which are collected in a separate section at the conclusion of each chapter. Glossary terms are highlighted in blue in the body of the text and well defined at the close of the book. If the student or seasoned crystallographer perusing the volume wishes to undertake further reading and informational discovery, all references used to formulate each book chapter's key concepts are offered at each chapter's close. Flowcharts, numerous in the book, provide excellent reinforcement of the iterative processes encountered by the practicing macromolecular crystallographer. All figures within the book are aesthetically appealing and function well in illustrating concepts and augmenting points made by the author.
Throughout the text, I found that the mathematical development offered by Dr. Rupp was not lacking and was in fact superior to those offered in other crystallographic textbooks I have surveyed. By his own volition, he states that there are over 600 mathematical equations offered within the book and that their inclusion can serve to explain fundamental concepts that may require additional pages to outline. In order to assist readers with the explanation of essential mathematical concepts and tender a means to gain an appreciation of the mathematics of crystallography, within the Appendix is included a section on mathematical basics and tools which both the layperson and seasoned master may find practical. Furthermore, Biomolecular Crystallography offers a great discussion, both mathematical and in prose, on how to address and overcome the phase problem. I have had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Rupp lecture on this topic specifically and his explanations on the phase problem and how to conquer it are clear and concise and serve to allay any misunderstanding of it; his description in the book echoes the concepts he describes in a lecture and is equivalent in its lucidity.
Whether someone is an expert or novice, the concepts governing macromolecular structure determination presented in Biomolecular Crystallography can serve as a tutorial to train the next generation of scientists interested in elucidating the structures of new large, high molecular weight molecules. The book does not try to avoid the concept that such a structure determination is an intricate process; however, it provides avenues to overcome these concerns and endeavors to instruct those interested in the field on methodologies and avenues to become adroit artisans of macromolecular X-ray crystallography. It is a textbook and a compendium of information to which I offer my supreme recommendation.