Molecular Biology of the Cell

 5th Edition Features and Reader Feedback 

The 5th edition of Molecular Biology of the Cell was released in 2007 and is the preeminent textbook for undergraduate, graduate, and researchers working in this field.

Almost 25 years after the first 848 page edition was published, the most recent edition has grown to 1,392 pages with 1,526 illustrations, photographs, and tables.

As the knowledge base of cell biology has grown, this book has kept pace by being completely revised to incorporate the new information.

The latest rendition of this book contains new information on the latest cancer therapies, RNA interference, stem cells, nongenetic factors in gene behavior, comparative genomics, cell cycle control, and apoptosis or programmed cell death.

The 5th Edition Textbook

By consensus, every edition of Molecular Biology of the Cell improved upon its predecessor edition. Much of the book has been completely rewritten and it now contains questions at the end of each chapter.

As the primary resource for cellular research scientists, this comprehensive textbook has been translated into several languages including:

• Spanish • Japanese • Indonesian • French • Catalan • Ukrainian • Portuguese • Italian • German • Chinese

It is only available in hardback in the United States, while a paperback version is available overseas.

Print and DVD

The first 20 chapters are divided into 5 sections: introduction to the cell, basic genetic mechanisms, methods, internal organization of the cell, and cells in their social context. The final five chapters, covering multi-cellular systems, are on an accompanying DVD.

The unprinted chapters include:

  • Sexual Reproduction
  • Development of Multi-cellular Organisms
  • Specialized Tissues, Stem Cells, and Tissue Renewal
  • Pathogens, Infection, and Innate Immunity
  • The Adaptive Immune System

Also containing PowerPoint presentations of tables and micrographs, the DVD has 150 animations and videos with voice narration.

Links in the textbook direct the reader to the corresponding media on the DVD.

Problems with the 5th Edition

While the stated intent of including the DVD in this edition of Molecular Biology of the Cell was to make it more portable, this feature hasn’t been a popular innovation for some users.

  • Some readers have complained that a few of the videos couldn’t be played and that this was a glaring technical oversight for a book of this stature.
  • Another purchaser opined that they had no idea that the final chapters would not be in writing but that they could work around the inconvenience.

The reference version of Molecular Biology of the Cell puts these last five chapters in print and omits the DVD.

Reader Feedback

The only other readers’ criticism of Molecular Biology of the Cell reflected the opinion that many entire paragraphs could have been distilled into one or two sentences and that this concision would have simplified absorbing the material.

However, the preponderance of the readers’ comments were salutary and reflected on the fact that the book made connections between the minutia of cellular biology and the macrocosm of biology in general.

Frequently mentioned were the opinions that the book was informative and easy to read with unambiguous illustrations.

The Problems Book

The Problems Book is a companion book to Molecular Biology of the Cell and reviews terminology and tests for comprehension of basic concepts.

Designed to dovetail with the first 20 chapters of the textbook, this ancillary book contains over 2,000 problems organized into the categories of terminology, definitions, true/false questions, thought problems, calculations, and data handling.

For professors the Problems Book is useful to spur classroom discussions and provide test questions and homework assignments.

The Reference Edition

The 1,728 page reference edition of Molecular Biology of the Cell is geared toward libraries and laboratories. No DVD is included with this version; all of the material is printed.

With a 1,300 word glossary to define any technical terminology unfamiliar to the reader and a comprehensive index to speed the reader’s access to the information he needs, this book can be used as a springboard to specific and detailed research.

The Supplement

Teaching supplements to Molecular Biology of the Cell help make class time more productive and the material easier for the student to understand.

All of the media contained on the DVD, as well as lecture outlines in PowerPoint format and sample test questions drafted to test a student’s understanding of each chapter, are available to teachers at the Garland Science Classwire website.

Additionally, over 200 acetate transparencies of illustrations and micrographs from the book can be purchased for use with overhead projectors in the classroom.


Six principle scientists collaborated on Molecular Biology of the Cell.

  • Dr. Bruce Alberts is a professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California and was President of the National Academy of Sciences from 1993-2005.
  • Dr. Alexander Johnson is a professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California.
  • Dr. Julian Lewis is Principal Scientist at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and graduated from Oxford University.
  • A researcher at the Medical Research Council Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology and member of the Biology Department at University College London, Dr. Martin Raff received his M.D. degree from McGill University.
  • Receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, Dr. Keith Roberts is an associate research director at the John Innes Centre, a British research institute studying plant science and microbiology.
  • Lastly, Dr. Peter Walter is a professor and Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California.

Collaborating on The Problems book were two professors of note.

  • Dr. John Wilson is a professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Baylor College of Medicine and is a recipient of a Robertson Presidential Award for excellence in education.
  • A recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, Dr. Tim Hunt taught marine biology at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory and is a Fellow of The Royal Society of London.

Clearly Molecular Biology of the Cell is the definitive treatise on cell biology. A panoptic opus on this discipline, the book is crafted to be beneficial to the worlds of academia and active research.

From various reader comments it is obvious this book is not a quick read, but it was not cast in that mold.

While one medical doctor reflected that he could only read about 10 pages an hour with comprehension, the detailed index of this book also allows it to be used as a reference for research molecular biologists.

Return from Molecular Biology of the Cell to Cell Theory 

A look at Eukaryotes 

A look at Prokaryotes 

Cell Division and Cell Differentiation

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