Preface to the series

Pathogenic bacteria, and poisonous animals and plants have been known to mankind for centuries. These organisms produce toxins that act by a variety of mechanisms to immobilize or kill their prey. Recently, toxin research has rapidly expanded as a result of the powerful and productive contributions of recombinant DNA, monoclonal antibodies, microinjection, crystallography, and patch clamp techniques. The number of toxins isolated and identified has increased, and more profound insights into their structure, mode of action, and role in disease have been achieved. The stage is now set to re-examine our previous concepts about toxin action in the light of current findings and to trace new pathways for the future. Accordingly, the purpose of this series is to fill the need for a comprehensive, contemporary work at the cellular and molecular levels of toxin action. Although emphasis will be placed on particular achievements, the new data will be integrated with previous investigations. Stimulating critical evaluations and current views and suggestions for new lines of research have been encouraged. Because of the huge numbers of toxins now known, a certain degree of selection was necessary, of course, of a subjective nature.

The aim of this series is to provide a multidisciplinary approach orientated toward an understanding of the basic principles and cellular molecular mechanisms of the action of toxins and their potential use as research tools. For this reason, each chapter provides a description of a normal physiological cellular structure and function, the interference of toxins with this process, and the use of particular toxins in research. Similarly, the structure of each book in the series was determined partly on scientific, and partly on pedagogic grounds. The first chapter(s) comprise mainly a review of the general principles of the book topic. The chapters that follow present specific reviews of the progress that has been made in different areas of this topic.

We are planning five books in the series: Toxins and Signal Transduction, the first volume, presents selected mechanisms by which toxins affect molecular processes which transduce extracellular signals into intracellular messages regulating cell function. Secretory Systems and Toxins, the second volume, provides an updated state-of-the-art treatment of vesicle-mediated secretion with special emphasis on the specific action and recognition of the secretory organelle proteins and glycolipids by tetanus, botulinum, and a-latrotoxin neurotoxins. This third volume, Site-Selective Neurotoxicity, presents different neurotoxicological aspects with a unique mechanistic perspective of neurotoxicity. Chimeric Toxins: Mechanisms of Action and Therapeutic Applications, the fourth volume, will focus on toxins affecting protein synthesis, their structure, genetic engineering, mechanism of action, and therapeutic application in medicine. The fifth volume, Pore Forming Peptides and Protein Toxins, will present natural and synthetic peptides and toxins forming pores and ionic channels that cause cell membrane collapse and cell death.

This book series includes contributions by many leading researchers in the field. While each research group has chosen a particular toxin, or cellular or molecular system, assembling all efforts into a single series will hopefully provide a unique source of information. Toxin research requires skill, special safety precautions, hardwork, and patience. I expect that this field of research will continue to reveal new cellular and molecular processes and provide new, selective research tools and prototypical compounds for drug development. If this series supports this effort in some small way, our work will be rewarded.

This undertaking has been made much easier by the excellent cooperation of the coedi-tors, Prof. Yehuda Gutman, Dr Michal Linial, Dr Alfonso Grasso, Dr Haya Lorberboum-Galski, Dr William Slikker, Dr David Lester, and Dr Gianfranco Menestrina. I would like to thank all authors for their commitment, time, and scholarship. We would also like to express our gratitude to Harwood Academic Publishers, for their encouragement, advice, and practical assistance during the production of this book series.

Philip Lazarovici Series Editor

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