Chemical Biology

Chemical Biology is the systematic application of small molecules that interfere with biological functions to study complex biological processes.

This approach offers specific advantages over classic molecular biology tools,  and thereby complements these methods:

  Chemical Biology Muta- genesis Example
Conditional functional interference + -

Mutant organisms are not viable when genes required for the foetal development are mutated. In contrast, these genes can be studied by inhibition with small molecules in adult wild-type organisms.
The timely controlled application of small molecules allows studies in the same organism with the gene active (before the addition of the drug or after removal of the drug) and inactive (upon the addition of the drug).


Dosage control + -

Small molecules can be applied at a wide range of concentration which allows the researcher to study the effect in a dose-dependent manner.


Spatial control + (+)

The effect can be limited to specific sites within a cell or organism by using e.g. caged compounds.


Selective functional inhibition of multi-functional proteins + -

Knock-out of a gene that encodes for a multi-functional protein leads to an ablation of all those functions. In contrast, small molecules can be designed to affect only a specific function of this protein.


Multiple targets + (+)

The creation of cells/animals with multiple knock-outs is very time-consuming and labour-intensive, whereas chemical compounds can be easily combined to interfere with multiple targets.


Inhibition of protein families + -

Mutagenesis leads to the knock-out of a select member of a protein family, whereas the chemical compounds can be designed to interfere with e.g. all members of the protein family.