The FY 2002 Budget Request for the Molecular and
Cellular Biosciences (MCB) Subactivity is $121.24 million, a decrease
of $2.98 million, or 2.4 percent, from the FY 2001 Current Plan
of $124.22 million.
(Millions of Dollars)
& Cellular Biosciences Research Projects
Molecular & Cellular Biosciences
MCB supports research on complex biological systems from the individual
biomolecule to the cellular level across a wide range of organisms.
Complex biological questions require the tools of information science
and computation to study the molecular mechanisms by which genetic
information is expressed and the mechanisms by which living cells
communicate and respond to environmental signals. Such questions
increasingly require collaborations with the physical sciences,
mathematics, computer science, and engineering.
Example: Computational Simulation of Gene Networks.
Complex interactions of gene networks are responsible for many
critical biological processes. A quantitative, mechanistic model
of a functioning gene network has been developed based on a computer
simulation. The test system was the gene network responsible for
generating the segmented body plan of the fruit fly. The computer
software takes a non-mathematical description of a gene network,
converts it into a set of differential equations, and then solves
the equations to reveal how concentrations of the various network
components change over time to produce the biological pattern.
This software will provide a new tool to study gene networks that
control other biological processes. It will also be useful for
teaching. A Small Grant for Exploratory Research provided the
seed funding for this successful project.
Very recently the availability of the genome sequences
of organisms has made possible a new approach to the study of biology,
broadly referred to as "functional genomics." Functional
genomic approaches to biological problems involve the use of information
encoded in the genome of an organism. These genome-enabled approaches
have revolutionized biological research.
The FY 2002 Budget Request includes funding in the
"2010 Project": The MCB Subactivity
will enhance support for research to determine the functions
of all the genes of the model flowering plant, Arabidopsis,
as part of the "2010 Project." This research takes
advantage of the newly available complete genome of Arabidopsis.
Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE):
The MCB Subactivity will emphasize genome-enabled microbial research
aiming to identify and characterize the biology of microorganisms
across the range of Earth's environments. This research is part
of the Microbe Project. It builds on the prior Life in Extreme
Environments (LExEn) effort, complements the ongoing Microbial
Observatories effort, and lays the groundwork for understanding
the role of the diversity of Earth's microbes in biocomplexity,
particularly in shaping and sustaining the environment.
Genome-Enabled Science: Genomics and modern
molecular tools have opened windows on worlds of biology hardly
imagined until recently. Indeed, well over half of new research
projects proposed in the MCB Subactivity involve the use of genomics.
Examples include analysis of microbial genomes to discover new
organisms, determine their genetic capabilities, and study the
diversity of metabolic functions that enable them to occupy diverse
habitats. Genome-enabled research also seeks to answer questions
such as which sets of genes are turned on or off in response to
signals from other organisms or from the environment, and how
multiple metabolic pathways are integrated to produce end-products
needed at particular times in the life of a cell or an organism.
The MCB investment will advance genome-enabled research to promote
fundamental understanding of the diversity of organisms making
up the natural world and will contribute to applications in biotechnology,
agriculture, and the environment.
Systems Biology: Theoretical, computational,
and mathematical modeling approaches are playing increasingly
important roles in all areas of the molecular and cellular biosciences
- in formulating and testing physical and mathematical models
of the structure and function of complex molecules, macromolecular
complexes, and cellular processes; in modeling and simulation
of the regulation and relationships of cellular and metabolic
processes; in analysis of genome data; and in other applications
in genetics and functional genomics. MCB will encourage integration
of these approaches with experimental research on molecules and
cells in a wide range of biological systems.