Budget 2001 Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

NSF Fiscal Year 2001
Budget Requests Excerpts

Molecular and Cellular Biosciences


   The FY 2001 Budget Request for the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) Subactivity is $133.15 million, an increase of $27.89 million, or 26.5 percent, over the FY 2000 Current Plan of $105.26 million.

(Millions of Dollars)
  FY 1999
FY 2000
FY 2001
Molecular & Cellular Biosciences Research Projects 101.27 105.26 133.15 27.89 26.5%
TOTAL, MCB $101.27 $105.26 $133.15 $27.89 26.5%

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 of a wide range of organisms. Research supported in this Subactivity builds the knowledge base for understanding the organisms that make up the natural world and for areas of biology that have great practical importance, such as laying the groundwork for development of new biotechnology products and processes. The research supported by MCB also identifies and builds emerging areas of promise for the future.

MCB supports research on complex biological questions such as the molecular mechanisms by which genetic information is expressed and transmitted and the mechanisms by which living cells from a wide range of organisms communicate with one another and respond to signals from the environment. Studies of such complex biological questions require the tools of information science and computation as well as collaboration with the physical sciences, mathematics, computer science, and engineering.

Very recently the availability of the genome sequences of organisms has made possible a new approach to the study of biology. This new approach, which is broadly referred to as "functional genomics," has revolutionized biological research. Functional genomic approaches to biological problems involve the use of information implicit in the genome of an organism. Thus, the genome sequence information provides the knowledge base for functional genomics.

For example, all complex organisms have a biological clock that is set by the rhythm of day and night. During 1999 MCB-supported investigators studying the simplest of organisms with a biological clock, the cyanobacterium, Synechococcus, developed new genetic methods to determine the genome sequences of microbes generally, and to understand at the molecular level how the biological clock works in the cyanobacteria. Using classical genetic tools involving transposons (jumping genes), their method will reduce the cost of microbial genome sequencing by a factor of 10.

The FY 2001 Budget Request includes increases to provide enhancements in:

  • Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE): The MCB Subactivity will support new research encouraging increased use of genomic approaches to characterize microorganisms across the range of Earth's environments from the extremes of hot springs and deep sea thermal vents, to frozen tundra, to more moderate, temperate soils and aquatic ecosystems. This research builds on the momentum developed by the Life in Extreme Environments (LExEn) research effort and the Microbial Observatories initiated in FY 1999 and lays the groundwork for understanding the role of microbes in biocomplexity, particularly their roles in sustaining their various environments. Support for research as part of the "2010 Project" to determine the functions of all the genes in the model flowering plant, Arabidopsis, will also be increased.

  • Information Technology Research (ITR): High-level tools of computation and communication are now absolutely required to approach complex biological problems using information implicit in genome sequences and for computational modeling of novel biological systems such as the structure and interactions of the molecules and cells of plants and diverse microbial communities in nature. Additional research involving development and use of advanced computational algorithms is required to organize, retrieve and utilize the vast amounts of data required for functional genomics and computational modeling.

  • Nanoscale Science and Engineering: Living organisms operate and replicate themselves using systems of exquisitely coordinated molecular machines. The proteins, DNA, RNA, lipids, and carbohydrates that make up these molecular machines can generate a wide range of minute, three-dimensional structures and perform a wide range of functions in a diversity of living systems. Such naturally-occurring molecular machines can serve as prototypes or suggest models for nanoscience and technology. Research will focus on study of the structure and regulation of macromolecular machines and macromolecular complexes capable of self-replication, and self-assembly.

  • Functional Genomics: This area of biological research integrates data implicit in genome sequences, such as RNA and protein sequence information, and information about what genes are active under which conditions. It then aims to develop a comprehensive understanding of what all the genes in an organism do and how they work together. Enhanced research support using this approach will seek to answer questions such as how 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 an organism.

  • Broadening Participation: MCB has a critical role in support of broadening participation to underrepresented groups in biology and across a range of academic institutions while ensuring the integration of research and education in the molecular and cellular biosciences. MCB will participate in expansion of the Undergraduate Mentorships in Environmental Biology (UMEB) program.

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