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Glossary of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

David M. Glick

Last Updated: 25 April 2014

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In the sciences, an essential aspect of recognizing, recalling and communicating something, be it a substance, relationship or method, is the naming of it. To create names for new concepts, methods or items, we invent new words, often using the roots of a Classical language (apoptosis, glycocalyx, isosbestic), and we recruit familiar words and invest them with new meanings (chaperone, kringle, library). Nomenclature is no trivial matter: it should be a key to understanding new areas of knowledge, but in its complexity, too often it is a lock. Compounding the problem are the inside jokes: the cognoscenti speak in cute acronyms, such as SAAB (selected and amplified protein binding site oligonucleotide method). While fun for the insiders, to the outsider this can be very frustrating. This Glossary lists nearly 3000 terms - some appear only in earlier literature, some are very current, some are common terms invested with new meanings, some are lab jargon; in other words old, new, borrowed and blue - and gives succinct definitions to them. The explanations assume a basic familiarity with the biosciences, and should therefore be useful to advanced students and to workers in related fields who wish to converse with biochemists or molecular biologists in their native tongue. I sincerely hope that this Glossary will help to open doors for its users.

As in the first edition (Raven Press, 1990), names of metabolites, enzymes, etc. are not systematically listed, as this information is easily available elsewhere. The 'official' nomenclature of enzymes is available at http://www.chem.qmul.ac.uk/iubmb/enzyme.The nomenclature of other biochemical substances (metabolites, macromolecules, vitamins, hormones, etc.) as recommended by the Nomenclature Committee of IUBMB and the IUPAC-IUBMB Joint Commission on Biochemical Nomenclature is found at http://www.chem.qmul.ac.uk/iubmb/.


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