on the



Michael Gross:
Life on the Edge. Amazing Creatures Thriving in Extreme Environments
Hardback: Plenum, May 1998;
reprinted by Perseus Books August 1999, ISBN 0-306-45786-5, $ 25.95, 200 + xiii pp.
Paperback (with a new afterword): Perseus Books January 2001, ISBN 0-738-20445-5, $ 15.00, 210 + xiii pp.


Table of contents:

  • Of Extremists and Eccentrics: A Personal Preface

  1. Introduction: Life and Its Limits
    Things you need for a Living
    What Do We Mean by "Normal", after All?
    The Limits of Life on Earth

  2. Extreme Environments and Their Inhabitants
    ___Profile: Thomas Brock and the Discovery of the Hyperthermophiles
    Some like it Hot: Life around Geysers and Volcanoes
    Stay Cool: Life at Subzero Temperatures
    ___Sidelines: Of Polar Bears and Penguins -- Vertebrate Life at the Poles
    Living under Pressure: The Deep Sea
    ___Sidelines: On Diving
    A light in the dark: Luminescent Creatures of the Deep Sea
    Travel to the Center of the Earth: The Deep Subsurface as a Biotope
    Extra Dry: Survival in the Desert
    Saturated with Salt: The (Allegedly) Dead Sea as a Biotope
    Acid Heads and Basic Needs: Life at Extreme pH
    Nature's Eco-Brigade: Oil-Degrading Bacteria

  3. The Cell's Survival Kit
    The Heat Shock Response
    ___Sidelines: How to Hunt for Stress Proteins
    Heat Shock Proteins Acting as Molecular Chaperones
    ___Focus: Structure and Function of the Heat Shock Protein GroEL
    Antifreeze and Cold Shock Proteins
    Adaptations by Changes of Amino Acid Sequences
    Chemical Adaptations: Small Molecules
    Some New Tricks from the Cell's Repair Workshop
    ___Focus: The Growing Family of Photolyase Enzymes
    ___Sidelines: How Hot Love Helps Archaebacteria to Survive
    ___Focus: The Case of the Missing Alanine -- a Biochemical Detective Story
    Waiting for Better Times: Sporulation as a Survival Strategy
    Two's Company: Symbiosis Helps Species to Spread in Hostile Environments

  4. Relevance of extremes for biotechnology and medicine
    An extremely short history of biotechnology
    Hyperthermophilic enzymes
    ___Profile : Kary Mullis and the polymerase chain reaction
    Preservation by freezing and freeze-drying
    ___Profile : Pierre Douzou and the invention of cryoenzymology
    High pressure biotechnology
    Bacteriorhodopsin as an opto-electronic component
    Extremophiles and disease: Acid resistant bacteria in the stomach
    Medical applications of heat shock proteins

  5. Extremists and the tree of life
    The origin of life: The primeval earth as an extreme habitat
    ___Profile : Stanley Miller and the primordial soup
    From building blocks to chain molecules
    Ribozymes -- Relics of a lost world?
    ___Focus: Ribozymes with new activities and new structures
    Archaebacteria: a new, very old domain of life
    Methanococcus jannaschii: Decoding an archaebacterium
    ___Focus: Inteins everywhere -- a surprising by-product of the Methanococcus sequence
    Do we all come out of the heat?
    Searching for Gaia: Life on Earth as a hyper-organism
    ___Profile : James Lovelock -- a heretic?

  6. Life beyond Earth
    How to detect life on a planet
    ___Profile : Carl Sagan and the quest for life in the Universe
    Is there life on Mars?
    SIDELINES: First results of Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor
    Strange worlds: The moons of the big gas planets
    Are there any planets orbiting other stars?
    The spore's guide to the galaxy

  7. Glossary

  8. Further reading and internet links

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