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May 1964

Keratin and Keratinization.

Arch Intern Med. 1964;113(5):787. doi:10.1001/archinte.1964.00280110167044

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At first blush this book should appeal exclusively to the dermatologist and to the biologist who delights in refractory problems of insoluble proteins. Only the subtitle, An Essay in Molecular Biology, hints that the monograph is a considered review of advances in subcellular physiology focused on a single class of substances and written with the assumption that the reader knows nothing.

After a prologue on the inseparability of macromolecular structure and function, Mercer describes the principles of x-ray diffraction and of the molecular stabilization of proteins. In tracing the phylogeny of ectodermal armor, he touches upon important but inapparent facts such as the birds' conquest of the sky being based on elaboration of a new type of epidermal protein, β-keratin. He makes keratins meaningful for the nonspecialist by generalizing the changes from fluid to solid states dependent upon disulfide-bond formation to include such phenomena as the formation of mitotic spindles

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