Press releases - News from the MPI of Biochemistry

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Proteome of the human heart mapped for the first time

November 13, 2017
Atlas of the Heart - A healthy heart beats about two billion times during a lifetime – thanks to the interplay of more than 10,000 proteins. Researcher from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) and the German Heart Centre at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have now determined which and how many individual proteins are present in each type of cell that occurs in the heart. In doing so, they compiled the first atlas of the healthy human heart, known as the cardiac proteome. The atlas will make it easier to identify differences between healthy and diseased hearts in future.   [more]
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Cellular power outage

October 26, 2017
A common feature of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or Huntington's disease are deposits of aggregated proteins in the patient's cells that cause damage to cellular functions. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich report that, even in normal cells, aberrant aggregation-prone proteins are continually produced due to partial failure of the respiratory system. Unless they are removed by degradation, aggregates accumulate preferentially in the mitochondria, the cellular power plants, ultimately blocking energy production. In order to get rid of these toxic aggregates, cells have developed an elaborate protein quality control system, which the researchers now describe in the journal Cell. [more]
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Stefan Jentsch posthumously awarded Otto-Warburg-Medal 2017

September 26, 2017
Stefan Jentsch was posthumously awarded the Otto Warburg Medal on September 25. The German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Gesellschaft für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie, GBM) and its partners Elsevier and Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) posthumously award the renowned cell biologist for his research on the importance of the protein Ubiquitin. Jentsch had died in October 2016 at the age of 61. Shortly before, he learned about the award. Wolfgang Baumeister, Director of the department „Structural Biology“ at the MPI of Biochemistry and colleague of Jentsch: “The Otto-Warburg-Medal is the highest award in biochemistry in this country. I remember very well, he was truly excited when he got the information.” Since 1998, Stefan Jentsch has been a Scientific Member and Director of the Molecular Cell Biology Department at the MPI of Biochemistry in Martinsried. [more]
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The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

September 21, 2017
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. However, Rubisco performs this reaction slowly and can also have unwanted reactions with oxygen. Algae have figured out a clever way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. If we learn how algae build the pyrenoid, we may be able to engineer it into plants, creating crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food. Combining genetics, cell biology, computer modeling and cryo-electron tomography, an international team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. They found that the pyrenoid behaves like a droplet of liquid, which dissolves during cell division to ensure that it is inherited by both daughter cells. This study is published in the journal Cell. [more]
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Molecular Force Sensors

September 18, 2017
Proteins are often considered as molecular machines. To understand how they work, it is not enough to visualize the involved proteins under the microscope. Wherever machines are at work mechanical forces occur, which in turn influence biological processes. These extremely small intracellular forces can be measured with the help of molecular force sensors. Now researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried have developed molecular probes that can measure forces across multiple proteins with high resolution in cells. The results of their work were published in the journal Nature Methods. [more]
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Intestinal flora from twins is able to initiate multiple sclerosis

September 11, 2017
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. It has been suspected for some time that bacteria in the natural intestinal flora may be responsible for triggering the disease in individuals genetically predisposed to it. Together with researchers from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg and the Universities of California (San Francisco) and Münster, Hartmut Wekerle and Gurumoorthy Krishnamoorthy from the Max Planck Institutes of Neurobiology and of Biochemistry in Martinsried have, for the first time, shown that intestinal flora from patients with MS can trigger an MS-like illness in an animal model.   [more]
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Weeds in the brain

September 07, 2017
A common feature of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s is the accumulation of toxic protein deposits in the nerve cells of patients. Once these aggregates appear, they begin to proliferate like weeds. If and how these deposits damage nerve cells and lead to their demise remains largely unexplained. A detailed insight into the three-dimensional structure of the protein aggregates should help researchers to solve this puzzle. Now, using cryo-electron tomography, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich have succeeded in generating a high-resolution, three-dimensional model of the huntingtin aggregates responsible for Huntington’s disease. The results are published in the journal Cell.   [more]
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