Molecular cell biology is a branch of biology which is a relatively new field compared to other fields of study. Scientists who study this field study the structure and properties of molecules found within cells. This field is often closely linked with biochemistry, in which the chemical reactions of biological molecules are looked at. The difference between biochemistry and molecular biology is that biochemists study molecules separately from the rest of the organism, whereas molecular biologists look at the interactions of molecules.
Molecular cell biology dates back to the 1930’s, when Warren Weaver coined the term molecular biology. Based on advances in fields such as X-ray crystallography, Weaver felt that biology as a whole was about to undergo some great changes. In fact, biology can basically be split into two groups – organism biology and molecular or cellular biology. This split is based on whether organisms are studied as a whole or if single cells are looked at.
The chief concern of molecular biologists is understanding how the various systems of the cell interact with one another. In other words, molecular cell biology is the study of how cells work based on the molecules found within them. The interaction of molecules found within cells underlies what type of cell will be formed and what role it is to play. In particular, the processes involved with the genetic material of cells, including replication, transcription and translation, are sought to be understood to provide a clearer picture of their regulation within cells.
Key molecules that are studied by molecular cell biologists include DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, RNA, ribonucleic acid, and proteins. DNA is of interest as it is the molecule that carries the genetic information of the cell, and thus the organism. RNA, which is closely related to DNA, carries the genetic information from the nucleus out to the rest of the cell. Finally, proteins are created based on the genetic information found in the DNA. These proteins determine the cell type and function based on the enzymes that are created.
Specific techniques are used in the molecular cell biology field. These techniques allow molecular cell biologists to isolate, characterize and manipulate the different molecules found with cells. Examples of techniques used by molecular cell biologists include expression cloning, gel electrophoresis, Western Blot and Southern Blot. Each of these techniques has a specific role to play in allowing scientists to study the important molecules that form the basis for life.