Molecular Biology includes the study of genes and the control of their expression in the elaboration of cellular and organismal function. As a field, Molecular Biology has unraveled the essence of life on earth—DNA replication, gene expression, and the biochemical basis of phenotypic characteristics upon which evolutionary selection pressures act. UC San Diego Molecular Biologists pursue fundamental molecular concepts underpinning the seemingly fantastic diversity of life forms and biological adaptation. Faculty in the Molecular Biology Section study the burgeoning field of chromosome structure within the nucleus as well as DNA and histone modifications that govern gene replication, accessibility and messenger RNA transcription. There is also emphasis on the study of non-coding RNA molecules and other post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms that determine how effectively mRNA is translated into proteins. In addition, there is a strong focus on intracellular signaling and the logic of gene regulation. Such interactions are also modeled and tested in synthetic gene networks that recapitulate the logic of feedback circuits governing natural programs of gene expression.
Faculty in Molecular Biology study this wealth of processes in both single-celled organisms and complex metazoans. These concepts are further examined to understand complicated cellular functions, such as development and differentiation. In particular, faculty in Molecular Biology study stem cell biology and the co-evolved immune response to model infectious agents with a focus on molecular mechanisms guiding lymphocytic and myeloid differentiation and function.