The Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) Subactivity supports research to increase fundamental understanding of the structure, function, and dynamic interactions of biological molecules and cells. Research supported in this Subactivity builds the knowledge base in areas of national importance, such as biotechnology and the environment, and identifies and builds emerging areas of promise for the future.
Support is provided for studies of proteins, DNA, RNA, lipids, and carbohydrates, as well as studies of the structure, function and metabolic processes of plant, animal and microbial cells. MCB also supports research on the mechanisms by which living cells from a wide range of organisms respond to signals from the environment, and studies of the mechanisms by which genetic information is interpreted and transmitted from one generation to the next. Approaching these complex biological questions requires the use of cutting edge instrumentation and tools of computation and communication as well as collaborations with the physical sciences, mathematics, computer science, and engineering.
The FY 1999 Budget Request includes an increase of $14.87 million for a total of $107.91 million to provide enhancements in :
· Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence (KDI). Advanced tools of computation and communication now offer unprecedented opportunities to approach complex biological problems such as how multiple metabolic pathways are integrated and how sets of genes are turned on or off in coordinated ways. MCB will emphasize KDI research in two areas: functional genomics, and computational modeling.
- Research supported in functional genomics will use genome sequence information in combination with complex data sets from other biological research areas to develop a comprehensive understanding of how genes function.
- Computational modeling involves testing models of complex molecules and cellular processes by integrating theory, computation and experiment. Additional research on advanced computational algorithms and functional linkages among diverse databases are required to organize, retrieve and make accessible the vast amounts of data required for research using both approaches of functional genomics and computational modeling. Indeed because of their complexity, living systems will likely provide an important driving force for pioneering new developments in computation and communication.
· Life and Earth's Environment (LEE). MCB will provide funding to characterize microorganisms from a series of sites, ranging from extreme environments such as hot springs and frozen tundra to more moderate environments such as temperate soils and aquatic ecosystems. This research will build on the momentum developed by the Life in Extreme Environments (LExEn) research effort, and will be carried out at a network of biological observatories taking advantage of sites such as the LTERs, biological field stations, and marine laboratories, where the basic environmental variables have been monitored and analyzed for several years, and where databases containing this information have been developed. This research will provide the basis for understanding the roles of microbial species in sustaining their environments and provide new organisms and genes for use in biotechnology.
· Educating for the Future. MCB will enhance the number of new investigators funded through the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER), and increase the number of awards for Collaborative Research in Undergraduate Institutions (C-RUI) and Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) supplements to enable promising undergraduate students to engage in hands-on research.
· Core support for building the disciplinary base. The core activities of MCB have the responsibility for identifying and supporting cutting edge research in molecular and cellular biology. MCB will enhance award size and duration in priority areas such as plant cell and molecular biology, mechanisms of gene regulation, and studies of metabolic processes in diverse organisms.