Funding News

The National Science Foundation Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences ( The National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) supports research and related activities that contribute to a fundamental understanding of biological processes at the molecular, subcellular, and cellular levels. Investigator-initiated research proposals are considered in the following programs: biomolecular structure and function, biomolecular processes, cell biology, and genetics. Programs in MCB also support fundamental studies leading to technological innovation, proposals with substantial computational components, and multidisciplinary and small group research. Biodiversity and biotechnology are major focal points of MCB. MCB programs particularly encourage submission of proposals involving microbial biology, plant biology, theoretical/computational aspects of molecular and cellular studies, molecular evolution, and biomolecular materials. Genomic approaches are encouraged in all areas. In fiscal year 1999 the division coordinated a special BIO-wide competition for Microbial Observatories. A new program announcement for this activity is under development and will soon be available at the NSF Web site. The NSF MCB also considers proposals for limited support of special meetings and workshops. NSF MCB program areas and grant target dates are as follows:

Biochemistry of Gene Expression supports research using biochemical and molecular biological methods to investigate mechanisms for the replication, expression, transfer, and stability of genetic information—both DNA and RNA. These studies primarily involve in vitro biochemical approaches. Gene expression mechanisms are a major focus, including transcription and processing of mRNA regulatory features, chromatin architecture, RNA stability, and translational mechanisms. Other areas of focus include DNA replication, mutation, and repair. (Target Date: Jan. 10, 2000.)

The Biomolecular Processes cluster considers projects on molecular mechanisms by which genetic and metabolic processes occur in plant, animal, and microbial organisms. These processes and related regulatory features are the areas of emphasis. Review of research is organized around the themes of biochemistry of gene expression and metabolic biochemistry. (Target Date: July 10, 2000.)

The Biomolecular Structure and Function cluster focuses on understanding the structure and function of biological macromolecules, including proteins, nucleic acids, polysaccharides, and lipid assemblies. The research supported by this cluster encompasses a broad range of topics and techniques. The cluster encourages multidisciplinary and innovative efforts at the interfaces of biology with physics, chemistry, mathematics, and computer science. The organized areas for review are molecular biochemistry and molecular biophysics. (Target Date: Jan. 10, 2000.)

The Cell Biology cluster funds research on the structure, function, and regulation of plant, animal, and microbial cells. Review of research is organized around the themes of cellular organization and signal transduction. (Target Date: July 10, 2000.)

Cellular Organization supports studies of the structure, function, and assembly of cellular elements such as the cytoskeleton, membranes, organelles, intracellular compartments, intranuclear structures, and the extracellular matrix (including cell walls). This encompasses structural and dynamic aspects of cellular and intracellular motility, meiosis and mitosis, and cell shape and polarity, including the mechanisms of endocytosis, exocytosis, and intracellular trafficking of membranes and macromolecules. (Target Dates: Jan. 10 and July 10, 2000.)

The Genetics cluster considers a wide range of studies directed toward answering significant questions of organization, recombination, function, regulation of function, and transmission of heritable information in all organisms from viruses and microorganisms to plants and animals. Specific areas include, but are not limited to, mechanisms of gene regulation, chromosome structure and replication, epigenetic phenomena, DNA repair and recombination, sex determination, genetic interactions between genomes, and molecular evolution. The methodologies used should be appropriate to the questions asked about genetic structure or/and function. Interdisciplinary proposals or proposals asking genetic questions but using methodology from other scientific disciplines will be co-reviewed in a manner that will ensure effective and fair evaluation of each proposal. (Target Date: July 10, 2000.)

Metabolic biochemistry supports research on many aspects of the dynamic activities of cells. This includes characterization of the biochemical pathways and other processes by which all organisms acquire, transform and utilize energy from substrates and synthesize new small molecules and macromolecular cell components. The diversity of primary and secondary metabolism and mechanisms of metabolic regulation, in response to both internal and external signals, are major topics of interest. Also included are biotransformations of environmentally significant compounds; manipulations of metabolism with practical applications; quantitative and temporal aspects of metabolism; integration and subcellular organization of metabolic processes; and use of new methods and technologies to conduct metabolic studies. (Target Dates: Jan. 10, and July 10, 2000.)

Molecular biochemistry emphasizes the correlation of function with the known structure of biological macromolecules and supramolecular structures, e.g., multienzyme complexes, membranes, and viruses. Additional areas of responsibility include: ribosomal function; the mechanism and regulation of enzyme and RNA catalysis; biochemical reactions involved in bioenergetic processes and photosynthesis; key biochemical processes involved in protein synthesis and folding; and the synthesis of biomolecular materials. Approaches typically include combinations of biochemical, molecular biological, chemical, physical, as well as genetic techniques applied in an integrative manner to address the above topics. (Target Dates: Jan. 10, and July 10, 2000.)

Molecular Biophysics supports research on the structure, dynamics, and interactions of biological macromolecules. This includes the determination and study of the three-dimensional structure of macromolecules; assembly and architecture of supramolecular structures (e.g., multienzyme units, viruses, membranes and contractile proteins); energy transduction; structure and dynamics of photosynthetic reaction centers; and mechanisms of electron and proton transfer in biological systems. Typical methodologies include: theory and computation; x-ray diffraction; magnetic resonance; optical spectroscopy; specialized microscopy, such as atomic force; and mass spectrometry. (Target Dates: Jan. 10, and July 10, 2000.)