Budget 2000 Molecular and Cellular Biosciences
NSF Fiscal Year 2000
Budget Requests Excerpts

Molecular and Cellular Biosciences


   The FY 2000 Budget Request for the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Subactivity is $105.01 million, an increase of $3.7 million, or 3.3 percent, over the FY 1999 Current Plan of $101.64 million.

(Millions of Dollars)
  FY 1998
FY 1999
FY 2000
Molecular & Cellular Biosciences Research Projects 92.10 101.64 105.01 3.37 3.3%
TOTAL, MCB $92.10 $101.64 $105.01 $3.37 3.3%

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, and the complex interactions of these molecules that underlie 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 molecular mechanisms by which genetic information is expressed and transmitted. 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.

Some of the most basic and interesting questions about living things concern the molecular mechanisms by which genetic information is transmitted from one generation to the next. Another set of questions concerns what genetic and biochemical features enable some organisms to thrive in extremely salty, acid, cold, or hot environments. Studies of a little-understood microbe from an extremely salty environment are shedding new light on these questions. A project supported by MCB has recently resulted in the determination of the complete DNA sequence of a large plasmid found in a salt-loving microbe. Plasmids are circles of DNA smaller than the host cell's chromosome, and are generally thought to contain genetic information of little or no importance to the life of the host microbe. Computational reconstruction and analysis of the DNA sequence of this plasmid has revealed some surprising features, and suggest that this large plasmid may have been formed, over many generations, by fusion of smaller segments of DNA that enable the microbe to live in its salty niche. The plasmid thus appears necessary for the survival of the organism. These observations provide insight into the evolution of a new chromosome. These discoveries represent examples of the growing explosion of new information about genetic mechanisms and about how organisms interact with the environment that will come from the analysis of the genomes of diverse organisms.

The FY 2000 Budget Request includes an increase of $3.37 million for a total of $105.01 million to provide enhancements in:

  • Information technology and computational analysis of biological systems. Rapidly advancing 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 research in functional genomics, and computational modeling.

    • Functional genomics requires the use of data from a network of complex databases that include genome sequence information, derived RNA and protein sequence information, and protein and RNA structures to develop a comprehensive understanding of how genes function.

    • Computational modeling involves formulating and testing physical and mathematical 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 is required to organize, retrieve and make accessible the vast amounts of data required for 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.

  • Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE). MCB will support research to characterize microorganisms across the range of Earth's environments from the extremes of hot springs or 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. This research will also lead to discovery of new organisms and genes for use in biotechnology.

  • Educating for the Future (EFF). MCB will enhance the number of new investigators funded through the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER), and increase the number of Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) supplements to enable promising undergraduate students to engage in hands-on research.

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