1062-3604/02/3302- $27.00 © 2002
Russian Journal of Developmental Biology, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2002, pp. 124–125. Translated from Ontogenez, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2002, pp. 153–160.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2002 by the Editorial Board.
A Review of the Book by L. I. Korochkin,
Vvedenie v genetiku razvitiya
(Introduction to Developmental Genetics), Moscow: Nauka, 1999
I. F. Zhimulev
Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Since Morgan’s statement about development as dif-
ferential gene activity, developmental genetics became
one of the leading directions in the system of life sci-
ences. This was especially enhanced by many discover-
ies made during the last 20 years, such as the discovery
of gene complexes that control early development and
the establishment of a common organization and func-
tioning of these genes in representatives of different
taxa. DNA-binding domains were found in proteins
that are speciﬁc factors of transcription and determine
the development of certain groups of cells. The causes
became known for changes in the gene systems that
control cell growth and division, and whose disturbance
lead to the formation of malignant tumors.
Discovery of the common principles of gene activity
during development made it possible to develop the
methods for cloning of animals: adult sheep, cattle,
mice and pigs were grown from individual cells. The
methods of artiﬁcial growing of human organs for sub-
stitution of diseased organs are actively elaborated,
already on a commercial basis.
The big successes of developmental genetics were rec-
ognized by awarding Nobel prizes to E. Lewis,
C. Nusslein-Volhardt, and E. Vishaus in 1995 for studies
of the structure of genes that control early development.
Many books and textbooks on developmental genet-
ics are published in the world. Big chapters are dedi-
cated to this ﬁeld of research in textbooks on general
biology and genetics.
A gap is quite evident in the Russian literature on
genetics as a whole and developmental genetics. The book
by L.I. Korochkin is quite necessary and timely, although,
of course, an insufﬁcient attempt to ﬁll this gap.
The title of the book is “Introduction to Develop-
mental Genetics” and it fully corresponds to the con-
tents: the most fundamental principles of the molecu-
lar-genetic regulation of development are described in
13 chapters (Chapter 2–14). Chapter 2 deals with infor-
mation about the leading role of the nucleus in morpho-
genesis, starting from Hammerling’s experiments. The
chapter is very detailed, interesting, and critical.
Chapter 3 presents the current information about the
structure of genes, various regulatory proteins, domains
of gene activation and inactivation in the chromosomes,
and levels of gene regulation, transcriptional and trans-
lational, as well as rearrangement of the genomes of
lymphocytes during antibody formation—DNA elimi-
nation and magniﬁcation. This chapter is in fact an
introduction to subsequent sections.
The next four chapters (4–7) deal with gene activity
during embryogenesis: establishment of the gradients
of morphogens and inducers during egg formation and
predetermination, i.e., action of the genes with mater-
nal effect. This is a large group of genes active in the
trophocytes and providing mRNAs and proteins for the
maturing oocyte. The description of such a system is
especially important, since, given an insufﬁcient
knowledge of genetics, an impression could be created
that the gradients of morphogens are formed
since the own genes of the egg and embryo do not work
from the beginning of cleavage until the blastula stage.
The gene systems that control segmentation in
and homeotic genes are well described. A
major breakthrough took place precisely in this area:
approximately 20 key genes were discovered that work
in a cascade according to a well organized hierarchy.
These genes control both formation of the general plan
of body segmentation and development of each seg-
ment or its polarity with reference to the longitudinal
axis of body symmetry.
Large body parts are formed due to the activity of
homeotic genes; as a result of mutations of these genes,
some organs are substituted for other organs, not spe-
ciﬁc for a given body region. The products of homeotic
genes are regulatory proteins that have a highly conser-
vative homeodomain, which has been described in
more than 300 genes of animals and higher plants.
These systems are described in great detail.
These chapters deal also with the patterns of interac-
tion between the inducers and target cell during mor-
Chapters 8 and 9 are dedicated to the key problems
of developmental genetics, such as determination and
differentiation. The data on the genetics of apoptosis
(Chapter 10), a recently discovered phenomenon related
BOOK REVIEW AND DISCUSSION