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Subject areas


EMBO aims to define molecular biology in the broadest terms possible, encompassing research on the molecular mechanisms of life at all levels, from single molecules to organisms and ecosystems. To be able to group and retrieve information from a particular area, the EMBO programmes and activities apply a system of 20 broad and non-exclusive categories to their projects, communities, and events.


Below is a brief list of keyword terms that define the scope of these subject areas.


Cell Cycle

regulation of cell growth and division in eukaryotes and prokaryotes, mitosis, cytokinesis, mitotic spindle formation, cyclins and other regulatory proteins, aberrant cell cycle regulation in cancer cells, etc.


Cell & Tissue Architecture

cell polarity and shape, cytoskeleton, extracellular matrix, adhesion and tissue organization, cell migration and taxis, invasive growth, neurite growth, axon pathfinding, morphogenic aspects of angiogenesis, etc.


Cellular Metabolism

primary and secondary metabolic processes, energy metabolism, bioenergetics, including photosynthetic and respiratory processes and the respective organelles in which they take place, etc.


Chromatin & Transcription

prokaryotic and eukaryotic transcription mechanisms; initiation, elongation, termination; epigenetics, chromatin remodelling, DNA and histone modifications, regulation of individual or complex loci; chromatin domains; heterochromatin formation, mechanisms of X chromosome inactivation and dosage compensation, positional effects, imprinting, reprogramming, etc.



embryonic and post-embryonic development; germ line cells, fertility and reproduction, meiosis; sex determination; stem cells in a developmental context; cellular senescence and aging in a developmental context, etc.


Differentiation & Death

differentiation and maturation of cell types, de-differentiation, post-mitotic cells, survival and death, apoptosis, stem cells, senescence, aging, etc.


Evolution & Ecology

molecular study of evolution; environmentally or ecologically oriented subdisciplines of population biology, evolutionary biology, genomics or systems biology; behavioral ecology; ecological genomics and evolutionary ecology; environmental microbiology & metagenomics; population genetics & genomics; experimental & computational evolution, etc.


Genome Stability & Dynamics

replication, recombination, damage and repair of genomes; transposition, integration and excision, restriction-modification, telomeres, genome organisation in chromosomes, genomic rearrangements and chromosomal aberrations, etc.


Genomic & Computational Biology

large-scale analysis of genomes, bioinformatics analysis of genome, gene, or gene product structure and evolution, structural modelling and simulations, etc.



molecular mechanisms underlying innate and adaptive, cellular and humoral, immune defenses; antigens and their receptors, antigen presentation; NOT including: plant pathogen responses


Membranes & Transport

structure and function of cellular membranes and compartments; membrane composition and function, including membrane lipid signalling; trafficking and transport of macromolecules, metabolites or ions across membranes, into and out of cellular organelles and compartments; active cytosolic transport of membranous vesicles, particles, and macromolecules; exo- and endocytic processes; protein and vesicle sorting; molecular motors and pumps; channels and pores


Microbiology, Virology & Pathogens

molecular biology of viruses, bacteria, archaea, protozoa, fungi, pathogenic microorganisms, and their interactions with their hosts and the environment


Molecular Medicine

molecular mechanisms and genetic factors underlying human disease; animal models of human disease; cancer research; human disease genetics; development of vectors, vaccines, molecular diagnostics and therapeutics



molecular aspects of differentiation, (patho)physiology and (dys)function of the nervous system; structure and function of central and peripheral nervous system, neuronal cells; neurosecretion, synapse formation and function, neuroendocrine cells; neuronal plasticity, memory and learning; behaviour, cognition, psychiatric disorders; neuron survival; neuropathologies


Plant Biology

molecular studies focusing on unicellular and multicellular autotrophic organisms


Proteins & Biochemistry

protein biosynthesis, translation, post-translational modifications, protein folding, complex and filament assembly; proteolytic processing, maturation, degradation; aggregation, amyloid formation; biochemistry and enzymology of biological macromolecules



RNA maturation, modification, folding, cleavage, splicing, polyadenylation, degradation and stability, localization and transport, RNP complexes, catalytic activity of RNA, non-coding RNA, miRNA, siRNA, aptamers; may also include translation-related processes and molecules, eg, tRNA charging or ribosomal RNA maturation and ribosome biosynthesis, but not translation itself (see Proteins & Biochemistry)


Signal Transduction

mechanisms involved in sending, receiving and integrating biological signals; signals for growth, replication, differentiation, stress responses; circadian rhythmicity; neuronal and synaptic signalling; signal-transducing oncogene products


Structural Biology & Biophysics

multi-dimensional structures and dynamics of biological macromolecules; biophysical approaches; high-resolution electron microscopy; AFM; crystallography; NMR; NOT including primary structure (sequence) or purely biochemical analysis of macromolecules


Systems Biology

analysis or prediction of properties and behaviour of complex biological systems in terms of their molecular components and their interactions