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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 are brief descriptions and lists of keyword terms that define the scope of these subject areas.



Cell Cycle


This area includes the study of cell growth and division processes in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes. A prominent topic would be the aberrant control of the cell division and growth cycle in cancer.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: cell division / cell cycle control / mitosis / cell cycle checkpoints / chromosome cycle / meiosis / proliferation / centrosome / spindle / CDK / centromere / cyclin-dependent kinase / cytokinesis / kinetochore / cyclin


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Cell & Tissue Architecture


“Cell & Tissue Architecture” encompasses the study of cell polarity and shape, especially in the context of tissues and organs. EMBO Members with an interest in this area will often be investigating the interplay of structures such as the cytoskeleton or the extracellular matrix, in relation to cell adhesion and migration. More specific subtopics include: invasive growth; axon pathfinding; neurite outgrowth; morphogenetic aspects of angiogenesis or organogenesis.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: cytoskeleton / cell motility / cell polarity / microtubule / migration / cell architecture / actin / epithelial / cell adhesion / axon / motility / tissue / asymmetry / spindle / angiogenesis / axon guidance / vascular system / asymmetric cell division / cell & tissue polarity / endothelial / extracellular matrix


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Cellular Metabolism


This subject area includes the molecular analysis of primary and secondary metabolic processes, energy conversion and biosynthetic pathways. Photosynthesis and other electron transport phenomena across cellular and organellar membranes are important topics in this line of research, as is the study of the specialised compartments in which they occur.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: metabolism / stress / lipid / carbohydrate / energy / homeostasis / bioenergetics / oxidative / redox / electron transfer / oxygen / cell respiration / nutrient


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Chromatin & Transcription


Transcription and other processes acting on the genome are usually viewed in the context of DNA-associated architectural and regulatory proteins and elements, and their respective modifications. Epigenetic mechanisms exert regional or global control of phenomena like heterochromatin formation, chromosome inactivation, dosage compensation, allelic imprinting, silencing, and chromatin effects on DNA recombination.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: transcription / chromatin / epigenetics / gene regulation / transcriptional regulation / nuclear organisation / transcription factor / DNA methylation / silencing / nuclear hormone receptor / expression profiling / histone / transcriptome / chromatin structure & nuclear organization / histone modification / chromosome structure / epigenetic regulation / RNA polymerase / chromatin dynamics / DNA-binding proteins / imprinting / gene silencing / nucleosome / remodelling


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This broad area of research aims to understand the molecular processes leading to the development of tissues, organs and organisms. Topics also include germ line cells, fertility, reproduction and sex determination, as well as somatic stem cells, cellular differentiation and senescence, if studied in a developmental context.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: development / stem cell / embryo / age / morphogenesis / pattern formation / regeneration / fate / organogenesis / embryogenesis / gametogenesis / growth control / myogenesis / embryonic stem cell / limb / pluripotency / appendage / reproduction / segmentation / adult stem cell / germline / morphogen / oocyte / self-renewal / sex


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Differentiation & Death


Molecular differentiation processes lead to the formation and maturation of distinct specialized cell types. The balance of survival and death, self-renewal and senescence of cells (including stem cells) are common topics studied in this subject area.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: stem cell / differentiation / cell death / apoptosis / age / growth factor / cell fate / haematopoiesis / reprogramming / death / fate / senescence / growth control / embryonic stem cell / pluripotency / cell growth / lineage / adult stem cell / cell morphogenesis / iPS cells


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Evolution & Ecology


This area encompasses the 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.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: genome variability & evolution / human genetics & evolution / molecular evolution / population / variation / evolution of development / selection / symbiosis / environmental / sex / diversity / ecology / microbiota / phylogeny / adaptation / aneuploidy / biodiversity / speciation / metagenomics / ocean / origin of life / barcoding / directed evolution / field ecology


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Genome Stability & Dynamics


This broad area includes all processes contributing to the replication, recombination and repair of genomes, as well as to their faithful segregation. Typical other aspects studied are mobile genetic elements, restriction/modification systems, genomic and chromosomal rearrangements, and the structure and function of telomeres.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: chromosome / DNA repair / DNA replication / recombination / genome (in)stability / chromosome cycle / DNA damage / telomere / genome variability & evolution / segregation / transgenic / mutagenesis / DNA recombination / chromosome structure / mutation / gene targeting / genomic imprinting / plasmid / transposable element / DNA restriction-modification / telomerase / X chromosome / aneuploidy


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Genomic & Computational Biology


This subject area encompasses the large-scale analysis of genomes, bioinformatics analyses of genome, gene, or gene product structure and evolution, and structural modelling and simulations.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: genetics / evolution / genome / genomics / bioinformatics / human genetic disease / molecular evolution / computational biology / human genetics / proteomics / sequence analysis / genome variability & evolution / modelling & simulation / mouse genetics / functional genomics / cancer genetics & genomics / expression profiling / transcriptome / variation


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Research in this subject area focuses on the mechanisms underlying innate and adaptive, cellular and humoral, immune defenses, as well as the regulation of these defenses at the molecular, cellular and organismic level. Plant pathogen responses are currently not included in this category.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: immunity / immunology / lymphocyte / T lymphocyte / inflammation / antigen / innate immunity / vaccine / autoimmunity / major histocompatibility complex (MHC) / antibody / antigen processing & presentation / dendritic cell / lymphocyte development & differentiation / immunoglobulin / immune response / B lymphocyte / immunodeficiency / cancer immunology / immunological memory / macrophage / mucosal immunity


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Membranes & Transport


This broad subject area covers many classical “cell biology” themes: the 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 transport of membranous vesicles, particles, and macromolecules; exo- and endocytic processes; protein and vesicle sorting; molecular motors and pumps; channels and pores.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: membrane / transport / trafficking / mitochondrion / protein sorting & targeting / membrane traffic / synapse / nuclear organisation / endocytosis / membrane protein / secretion / intracellular transport / cell adhesion / channels / membrane dynamics / endoplasmic reticulum (ER) / translocation / autophagy / ion channel / nuclear transport


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Microbiology, Virology & Pathogens


This broad category includes research on the molecular biology of viruses, bacteria, archaea, protozoa, fungi and pathogenic microorganisms.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: virus / bacterial / microbiology / microorganism / bacterium / bacteriophage / HIV / invasion / bacterial pathogen / prokaryote / virus & host cell / toxin / antiviral / infection / retrovirus / antibiotics / parasite / plasmid / symbiosis / virus assembly & structure / host-pathogen interaction / protozoa / archaea


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Molecular Medicine


Researchers in this subject area study the molecular mechanisms and genetic factors underlying human disease and cancer, frequently in the context of cell culture or animal models. Other work aims at the development of vectors, vaccines, molecular diagnostics and therapeutics.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: cancer / disease / tumour / oncogene / therapy / human genetic disease / pathogenesis / vaccine / mouse model / tumour suppressor / human genetics / drug / gene therapy / cancer genetics & genomics / medicine / disorder / metastasis / molecular medicine


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Neuroscientists study molecular aspects of differentiation, (patho)physiology and (dys) function of the nervous system.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: neur(on)al development / neurobiology / neurodegeneration / neural / synapse / brain / neuronal / nerve / nervous system / central nervous system / behaviour / memory & learning / neuronal circuit / axon / Alzheimer's disease / neuron / visual system / neuronal disease / axon guidance / cortex / neurotransmitter / glia / optogenetics


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Plant Biology


While it may be taxonomically difficult to define what a plant is, the EMBO subject area “Plant Biology” largely covers the molecular investigation of the genetics, structure, growth, reproduction, metabolism, development and diseases of photoautotrophic organisms.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: plant / Arabidopsis / photosynthesis / plant development / plant hormones / chloroplast / plant genomics / plant-microbe interaction / root / plant defence & resistance / plant growth / auxin / flower / plant biotechnology / plant virus / seed / agriculture


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Proteins & Biochemistry


Starting with protein biosynthesis through translation, this subject area also includes subsequent post-translational modifications, protein folding, complex and filament assembly; proteolytic processing, maturation and degradation; protein aggregation and amyloid formation; and the biochemistry and enzymology of biological macromolecules.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: translation / protein synthesis / kinase / protein degradation / ubiquitylation / folding / enzyme / assembly / protein folding & aggregation / ribosome / proteomics / proteolysis / chaperone / macromolecular / biochemistry / supramolecular complex / GTP-binding protein / histone modification / translocation / enzymology


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Research in this subject area focuses on the post-transcriptional maturation, modification, folding, cleavage, splicing, polyadenylation, degradation and stability, localization and transport of RNA.



TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: RNA / pre-mRNA splicing / microRNA / RNAi & RNA silencing / non-coding RNA / RNA stability & degradation / RNA processing / editing / epigenetic regulation / RNA binding proteins / RNA polymerase / RNA modification / tRNA / alternative splicing / RNA localization & transport / RNA structure, folding, catalysis / siRNA


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Signal Transduction


Signal transduction research explores the mechanisms involved in sending, receiving and integrating biological signals, as well as the effects of these signals on growth, replication, differentiation, stress responses; on circadian and other rhythms; and on neuronal and synaptic functions.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: signal transduction / receptor / kinase / growth factor / hormone / cytokine / GTP-binding protein / cell signalling / sensory / circadian rhythm / G protein coupled receptor (GPCR) / tyrosine kinase / chemosensation / neurotransmitter / receptor tyrosine kinase / insulin / interferon / olfactory / chemokine / chemotaxis / lipid-mediated signalling


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Structural Biology & Biophysics


Researchers with an interest in this subject area study multi-dimensional structures and dynamics of biological macromolecules. They often apply biophysical approaches; high-resolution electron microscopy; AFM; X-ray crystallography and X-ray or particle scattering methods; or NMR or other spectroscopic techniques.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: structure / X-ray crystallography / microscopy / protein structure / modelling / structural biology / imaging / electron microscopy / biophysics / NMR / protein engineering / fluorescence / live imaging / single molecule techniques / cryo-electron microscopy / spectrometry / mass spectrometry / AFM / chemical biology


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Systems Biology


Studies in this subject area analyse or predict properties and behaviours of complex biological systems in terms of their molecular components and their interactions.


TYPICAL KEYWORD TERMS: systems biology / network / engineering / proteomics / modelling & simulation / expression profiling / transcriptome / regulatory networks / self-organization / synthetic biology / quantitative / epigenomics / simulation / information processing / mathematical modelling / metagenomics


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