Press releases - News from the MPI of Biochemistry

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Decoding the structure of the huntingtin protein

February 21, 2018
25 years ago, the cause of Huntington's disease was discovered. Mutations on a single gene, the huntingtin gene, lead to an incorrect form of the correspondent protein. With the help of cryo-electron microscopy, the recently awarded Nobel Prize winning method, researchers have now decoded the three-dimensional, molecular structure of the healthy human huntingtin protein. This now enables its functional analysis. An improved understanding of the structure and the function of the huntingtin protein could contribute to the development of new treatment methods in the future. The work of the researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried and Ulm University has now been published in the journal Nature. [more]
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Leibniz Prize for Veit Hornung

December 20, 2017
The immunologist Veit Hornung receives the Leibniz Prize 2018 from the DFG. In his research activity, he elucidates central defense mechanisms of the innate immune system. The prize is the most important award for research excellence in German. Veit Hornung holds the Chair of Immunobiochemistry at LMU’s Gene Center. Since November 2017, Hornung is head of the research group „Molecular Mechanisms of Inflammation“ at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried as a Max Planck Fellow. [more]
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Visualizing single molecules in whole cells with a new spin

December 19, 2017
A new imaging method could put super-resolution microscopy within reach of most biologists - Cell biologists traditionally use fluorescent dyes to label and visualize cells and the molecules within them under a microscope. With different super-resolution microscopy methods, they can even light up single molecules and see their complex interactions with one another. However, the microscopy hardware required to do this is highly specialized, expensive, and requires operators to have unique skills; hence, such microscopes are relatively rare in laboratories around the world. [more]
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Live or let die

December 18, 2017
critical decision-making in cells  In healthy cells, small amounts of reactive oxygen radicals called ROS are produced in many processes, such as cell respiration or fat burning. While the cell can handle low concentrations, the excessive increase of ROS, for example caused by viral infection, leads to cell death. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry now report in Nature Immunology about a newly discovered "oxeiptosis" signaling pathway. This pathway measures intracellular ROS concentrations and can thereby control cell death or survival of the cell. Since ROS are produced in a variety of diseases, the researchers believe that this pathway plays an important role in the control of a wide range of pathological processes. [more]
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Guardians of the Gate

December 11, 2017
To travel between the cytoplasm and the nucleus, proteins must pass through a gateway called the nuclear pore complex (NPC). However, it is unknown whether the cell can monitor the proteins that go through the NPC. Using in situ cryo-electron tomography to look into cells that are frozen in a life-like state, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry discovered that NPCs are decorated with highly organized clusters of proteasomes, molecular machines that destroy misfolded and mislocalized proteins to ensure healthy cell function. These NPC-tethered proteasomes may perform surveillance of NPC trafficking to ensure that only the correct proteins pass into, or out of, the nucleus. The study is published in the journal PNAS. [more]
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The future of crop engineering 

December 07, 2017
Photosynthesis is the process underlying all plant growth. Scientists aim to boost photosynthesis to meet the increasing global demand for food by engineering its key enzyme Rubisco. Now, researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry have succeeded in producing functional plant Rubisco in a bacterium. This allows genetic engineering of the enzyme. The study could one day lead to better crop yields and plant varieties with increased water-use efficiencies or enhanced temperature resistance. The results were published in Science. [more]
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E.B. Wilson Medal for F.-Ulrich Hartl

December 05, 2017
F.-Ulrich Hartl, director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, is awarded the E.B. Wilson Medal this year together with Arthur L. Horwich of Yale School of Medicine/HHMI. The award represents the highest honor of the American Society of Cell Biology (ASCB). The biochemist Hartl and the geneticist Horwich are pioneers in the field of cellular protein chemistry. Their collaboration helped unravel the molecular machinery that assists protein folding. Hartl and Horwich challenged the widely held notion put forth by Nobel Prize winner Christian Anfinsen that proteins fold spontaneously in cells, just as they do in test tubes. The prize will be awarded on December 5 on the ASCB/EMBO meeting Philadelphia, USA. Hartl has been a member of ASCB since 2004, Horwich since 1991. [more]
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