Washington, M. Todd Department of Biochemistry, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.
Last reviewed:August 2019
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- Key concepts of molecular biology
- Nucleic acids
- Central dogma
- Areas of research within molecular biology
- DNA replication
- Other areas of research
- Importance of molecular biology
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The study of structural and functional properties of biological systems, pursued within the context of understanding the roles of the various molecules in living cells and the relationships between them. Molecular biology is the field of biology that attempts to interpret biological events in terms of the physicochemical properties of molecules in cells. In general, molecular biology has three related meanings. First, in a traditional sense, molecular biology is the study of the means by which genetic information is transmitted and expressed at the level of protein and nucleic acid molecules. When understood this way, molecular biology encompasses numerous areas of research, including deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) replication, DNA repair, transcription, ribonucleic acid (RNA) processing, and translation (Fig. 1). Second, in a broader sense, molecular biology refers to the study of living things at the level of molecules. When understood this way, molecular biology encompasses fields ranging from cell biology and developmental biology to biochemistry and biophysics. Third, in a narrower sense, molecular biology refers to a set of experimental approaches principally involving recombinant DNA technology, which is used by a wide range of contemporary biologists. This article focuses on the more traditional meaning of the term. See also: Biochemistry; Biology; Biophysics; Biotechnology; Cell biology; Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA); Developmental biology; DNA repair; Genetics; Molecule; Ribonucleic acid (RNA)
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