During the past few decades we have witnessed an era of remarkable growth in the field of molecular biology. In 1950 very little was known ofthe chemical constitution of biological systems, the manner in which information was transmitted from one organism to another, or the extent to which the chemical basis oflife is unified. The picture today is dramatically different. We have an almost bewildering variety of information detailing many different aspects of life at the molecular level. These great advances have brought with them some breathtaking insights into the molecular mechanisms used by nature for replicating, distributing, and modifying biological information. We have learned a great deal about the chemical and physical nature of the macromo- lecular nucleic acids and proteins, and the manner in which carbohydrates, lipids, and smaller molecules work together to provide the molecular setting ofliving systems. It might be said that these few decades have replaced a near vacuum of information with a very large surplus. It is in the context ofthis flood of information that this series of monographs on molecular biology has been organized. The idea is to bring together in one place, between the covers of one book, a concise assessment of the state of the subject in a well-defined field. This will enable the reader to get a sense of historical perspective-what is known about the field today-and a descrip- tion of the frontiers of research where our knowledge is increasing steadily.