What is Molecular Biology?

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Molecular biology is a branch of science concerning biological activity at the molecular level.

The field of molecular biology overlaps with biology and chemistry and in particular, genetics and biochemistry. A key area of molecular biology concerns understanding how various cellular systems interact in terms of the way DNA, RNA and protein synthesis function.

The specific techniques used in molecular biology are native to the field but may also be combined with methods and concepts concerning genetics and biochemistry, so there is no big distinction made between these disciplines.

However, when the fields are considered independently of each other, biochemistry concerns chemical materials and essential processes that take place in living organisms. The role, function and structure of biomolecules are key areas of focus among biochemists, as is the chemistry behind biological functions and the production of biomolecules.

Genetics is concerned with the effects of genes on living organisms, which are often examined through “knock-out” studies, where animal models are designed so that they lack one or more genes compared to a “wild type” or regular phenotype.

Molecular biology looks at the molecular mechanisms behind processes such as replication, transcription, translation and cell function. One way to describe the basis of molecular biology is to say it concerns understanding how genes are transcribed into RNA and how RNA is then translated into protein. However, this simplified picture is currently be reconsidered and revised due to new discoveries concerning the roles of RNA.

Reviewed by , BSc

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Last Updated: Oct 16, 2014

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