304pp Oct 2018; ISBN: 9789813233492 (hardcover) £105.00; ISBN: 9789813233515 (ebook) £85.00

Genomic Uracil surveys uracil’s proposed roles in evolution, immunity and disease. It describes cellular uracil synthesis and the complex regulatory pathways that work to keep uracil incidence tightly controlled.

Uracil and uracil regulatory proteins are believed to be intimately linked with the evolution of early life. Certain modern viruses hint at a uracil-DNA world that pre-dates the thymine-DNA genome. The book discusses the transition from primitive life to modern uracil synthesis, incorporation and removal. The uracil-DNA glycosylase (UNG/UDG) family is responsible for uracil-DNA excision, forming part of the DNA repair pathway. UDG enzymes feature heavily in the book, which reports their prevalence, structure and proposed catalytic mechanism. Biologically, uracil is a key intermediate of mammalian innate and adaptive immunity. The enzymatic deamination of cytosine to uracil is thought to be the innate defence against viral replication and spreading. Uracil is also important in generating a second-line adaptive immune response that develops highly specific antibodies against infecting pathogens. Uracil incorporation, however, must be tightly controlled. U:G mismatches constitute a major mutational DNA legion and have been linked to numerous human cancer types.

This book is an interesting read; however, for an interdisciplinary work, it can neglect to expand upon subjects sufficiently – at times, resembling more a review article than a fully fledged textbook. It can often use acronyms, whose meaning and biological context sometimes go unexplained, making it difficult to decipher for the non-expert reader. To help alleviate this, a glossary of terms would be a welcome addition.

Overall, the book is an impressive account of uracil research to date. Its emphasis on discussing experimental detail, techniques and potential therapeutic targets makes it a powerful research accompaniment for anyone in the fields of cancer or immunological research.