During the past few decades we have witnessed an era of remarkable growth in the field of molecular biology. In 1950 very little was known of the chemical constitution of biological systems, the manner in which information was trans mitted from one organism to another, or the extent to which the chemical basis of life is unified. The picture today is dramatically different. We have an almost bewildering variety of information detailing many different aspects of life at the molecular level. There great advances have brought with them some breath-taking insights into the molecular mechanisms used by nature for rep licating, distributing and modifying biological information. We have learned a great deal about the chemical and physical nature of the macromolecular nucleic acids and proteins, and the manner in which carbohydrates, lipids and smaller molecules work together to provide the molecular setting of living sys tems. It might be said that these few decades have replaced a near vacuum of information with a very large surplus. It is in the context of this flood of information that this series of monographs on molecular biology has been organized. The idea is to bring together in one place, between the covers of one book, a concise assessment of the state of the subject in a well-defined field. This will enable the reader to get a sense of historical perspectiv(}-what is known about the field today-and a description of the frontiers of research where our knowledge is increasing steadily.
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