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Directorate for Biological Sciences
Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) supports research and related activities that contribute to a fundamental understanding of life processes at the molecular, subcellular, and cellular levels.

Investigator-initiated research proposals are considered in the following clusters: Biomolecular Systems, Cellular Systems, and Genes and Genome Systems. Programs in MCB also support fundamental studies leading to technological innovation, proposals with substantial computational components, and multidisciplinary and small group research. MCB programs particularly encourage submission of proposals involving microbial biology, plant biology, theoretical and computational aspects of molecular and cellular studies, and molecular evolution. Genomic approaches are encouraged in all areas. The Division also coordinates a special BIO-wide competition for Microbial Observatories and Microbial Interactions and Processes. In addition, the Division supports a variety of NSF-wide activities including Biocomplexity in the Environment, Information Technology Research, Science and Technology at the Nanoscale, and Foundation-wide activities designed to promote integration of research and education, such as the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) and the Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Programs.

Biomolecular Systems

This cluster emphasizes the structure, function, dynamics, interactions, and interconversions of biological molecules. The context for such studies can range from investigations of individual macromolecules to the large-scale integration of metabolic and energetic processes. Research supported by this cluster includes development of cutting-edge technologies integrating theoretical, computational, and experimental approaches; the study of biological molecules and their functional complexes; mechanistic studies of the regulation and catalysis of enzymes and RNA; and higher-order characterization of the biochemical processes by which all organisms acquire, transform, and utilize energy from substrates. This cluster emphasizes the importance of multidisciplinary research carried out at the interfaces of biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, and engineering.

The cluster includes the scientific themes of molecular biochemistry, molecular biophysics, and metabolic biochemistry.

Cellular Systems

This cluster supports research on the structure, function, and regulation of plant, animal, and microbial cells and their interactions with the environment and with one another. Areas supported include studies of the structure, function, and assembly of cellular elements, such as the cytoskeleton, membranes, organelles, intracellular compartments, intranuclear structures, and extracellular matrix, including eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell walls and envelopes. In addition, support is provided for the study of intracellular and transmembrane signal transduction mechanisms and functions; and cell-cell signaling processes, including those that occur in biofilms. Research on cellular recognition and self-defense mechanisms is included. Research utilizing both traditional and innovative methodologies, multidisciplinary approaches, technique development, computation and modeling, and approaches that exploit genomic information is encouraged. Multidisciplinary approaches to the study of cellular systems, including research carried out at the interfaces of biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and computer science and engineering are also encouraged.

The cluster includes the scientific themes of cellular organization and signal transduction and cellular regulation.

The Microbial Observatories and Microbial Interactions and Processes competition is also housed in this cluster. This expanded activity supports integrative studies that explore novel microorganisms, their interactions in consortia and communities, and aspects of their physiology, biochemistry, and genomics in relationship to the processes that they carry out in their environments.

Genes And Genome Systems

This cluster supports studies on genomes and genetic mechanisms in all organisms, whether prokaryote, eukaryote, phage, or virus. Proposals on the structure, maintenance, expression, transfer, and stability of genetic information in DNA, RNA, and proteins, and how those processes are regulated, are appropriate. Areas of interest include genome organization, molecular and cellular evolution, replication, recombination, repair, and vertical and lateral transmission of heritable information. Of equal interest are the processes that mediate and regulate gene expression, such as chromatin structure, epigenetic phenomena, transcription, RNA processing, editing and degradation, and translation. The use of innovative in vivo and/or in vitro approaches, including biochemical, physiological, genetic, genomic, and/or computational methods, is encouraged, as is research at the interfaces of biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and computer science and engineering.

This cluster includes the scientific themes of eukaryotic genetics, microbial genetics, and the biochemistry of gene expression.

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