The fourth edition of The Physiology and Biochemistry of Prokaryotes, designed for use in advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate-level biology courses, provides the most current, authoritative, and relevant presentation of prokaryotic physiology and biochemistry. It presents microbial metabolism in the context of the chemical and physical problems that cells must solve in order to grow. The text is organized by topic rather than by organism, therefore helping students understand the general principles of physiology and metabolism. This new edition builds in comprehensive coverage of energetics. It also adds broad coverage of molecular machinery, applied throughout the text to help create a unifying narrative across biological principles. Also added is broader coverage of chromosomes, macromolecular synthesis, biofilms, and cell-cell communications.

The prokaryotes are a diverse assemblage of organisms that consists of the Bacteria (also called eubacteria) and the Archaea (also called archaebacteria).  This text provides an updated description of the major aspects of the prokaryotes, such as cell structure, biochemistry, bacterial development, adaptation to environmental changes, and signaling interactions between the cells that occur in bacterial populations such as those living in biofilms. The text highlights signaling mechanisms that allow individual bacterial cells to sense and respond to the environment, and also to signal each other so that they can respond as a cooperating population of organisms.


The organization of the text is according to topics rather than organisms, although the physiology of specific groups of prokaryotes is emphasized.  This pattern of organization lends itself to the elucidation of general principles of physiology, metabolism, responses to environmental challenges, and cellular/multicellular development.

Topics include cellular structure and function,  growth and cell division,  chromosome replication and partitioning of chromosomes, membrane bioenergetics and the proton potential, electron transport, photosynthesis, the regulation of metabolic pathways, bioenergetics in the cytosol, central metabolic pathways, RNA and protein synthesis, cell wall and capsule biosynthesis, inorganic metabolism, C1 metabolism, fermentations, responses to environmental stress, solute transport, protein transport and secretion, responses to environmental cues, chemotaxis, photoresponses, aerotaxis, microbial biofilms, cell-cell communication mechanisms, and bacterial development.

Distinctive Features

  • Topical organization fosters understanding of the general principles and concepts of the biochemistry and physiology of prokaryotes, in addition to providing detailed data and conclusions about specific groups of prokaryotes.
  • End-of-chapter summaries and study questions help students synthesize material and prepare for examinations.
  • An extensive references and notes section is available to aide further research, and to provide access to the data that supports the conclusions made in the text.
  • Boxed sections call out topics of special interest, adding historical information about earlier discoveries, covering experiments that established the central tenets of microbiology and biochemistry, or exploring in detail especially engaging or important topics discussed in the text. New to the 4th edition
  • New coauthors: David White is joined by two colleagues from Indiana University: Jim Drummond adds expertise on biological macromolecules, while Clay Fuqua contributes authority on microbial interaction. Both well-known authorities in their respective fields as well as experienced educators.
  • New chapters: The fourth edition adds a more detailed account of chromosome replication, protein and RNA synthesis, and a more complete description of the biology of biofilms and of intercellular communication between bacteria:
    • Chapter 11 - RNA and Protein Synthesis
    • Chapter 21 - Microbial Biofilms – Structured Multicellular Assemblies
    • Chapter 22 - Cell-Cell Communication Mechanisms

All chapters from the previous edition have been thoroughly reviewed and revised to incorporate the most recent research.

  • New themes: Two new themes have been incorporated across the text. A comprehensive coverage of energetics adds another perspective to the physiological and biochemical topics covered. A thorough incorporation of molecular machinery helps create a unifying narrative across biological principles.

A note on chemical notation of acidic and basic groups: Most of the carboxyl groups are drawn as nonionized and the primary amino groups as nonprotonated.  However, at physiological pH these groups are ionized and protonated, respectively.  The names of the organic acids indicate that they are ionized (e.g. acetate rather than acetic acid).

Ancillary Materials

  • Instructor's Resource Companion Website: All images are available to instructors for classroom use on a password-protected instructor's website. Please contact your Oxford sales representative for access.

Acknowledgments We would like to express gratitude to the many individuals named below, and those who remain anonymous, who have read sample chapters and have made helpful suggestions for the fourth edition.

Jennifer Anthony, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
Theodore C. Crusberg, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
John E. Gustafson, New Mexico State University
Shannon Hinsa-Leasure, Grinnell College
Adam J. Houlihan, Wagner College
Carol R. Lauzon, California State University, East Bay
Paul W. Lepp, Minot State University
Robert J.C. McLean, Texas State University-San Marcos
Tina Salmassi, Cal State LA
Kathleen Scott, University of South Florida
Timothy Secott, Minnesota State University
Louis Sherman, Purdue University
Teri Shors, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Om V. Singh, University of Pittsburgh
John G. Steiert, Missouri State University
Ann M. Stevens, Virginia Tech
Sonia M. Tiquia, University of Michigan-Dearborn
Thomas M Walter, Purdue University
Hwan Youn, California State University, Fresno

We also want to thank the reviewers of the third editon: Carl Bauer, Yves Brun, Jim Drummond, Martin Dworkin, Pat Foster, Heidi Kaplan, Larry Shimkets, and Ashley Williams, as well as the many individuals who helped by reviewing the first two editions. Thanks also to the team at Oxford University Press, including Jason Noe, senior editor for life sciences; Katie Naughton and Caitlin Kleinschmidt, editorial assistants; Jason Kramer, marketing manager; Patrick Lynch, editorial director; and John Challice, vice president and publisher. The excellent efforts of the Oxford University Press production team are gratefully acknowledged: David Bradley, production editor; Steven Cestaro; production director; Lisa Grzan, production team leader; Betty Lew, art director; and Brenda Griffing; copy editor. Much of this edition, like the first three editions, was illustrated by Eric. J. White.

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