2015

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Novel proteomic technologies that are so robust and powerful that they can be used in every biological laboratory and in every clinic are expected as results of the currently starting research consortium MSmed. The European Commission is co-funding the project with 3.7 Million Euros for four years starting Dec. 1, 2015 within the research line “Future and Emerging Technologies” under the Horizon 2020 Programme. MSmed will automate workflows in mass spectrometric analysis for proteomics research to prepare them for high-throughput clinical application. more

Mom’s eyes and dad’s tumor? Cancer is due to genetic defects, some of which can be hereditary. The gene variant rs351855, for example, occurs in one in two cancer patients. It supports the growth of a variety of tumors that are aggressive and difficult to treat. A team headed by Axel Ullrich from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried identified the gene variant a decade ago. The same laboratory has now succeeded for the first time in showing that the defect exposes an otherwise hidden binding site on the FGFR4 receptor. In a previously unknown interaction, growth factor STAT3, which promotes cancer, binds to the exposed site. The STAT3 signaling cascade can be efficiently blocked. For the first time, this could provide a promising therapeutic approach for many cancer patients. At the same time, it represents an important step towards personalized medicine. The paper was published in Nature. more

The European Molecular Biology Organization EMBO stands for European cutting-edge research in the life sciences. It supports young, talented researchers in their career and specifically promotes the national and international scientific exchange. Together with 22 young scientists, Naoko Mizuno, Research Group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) in Martinsried near Munich, was granted the EMBO Young Investigator Award. For three years, the winners will receive 15,000 EUR per year for their research and individual benefit in various science-related fields. The successful scientists were selected from 174 applicants and come from ten different countries. more

Just as in the Middle Ages when there were still many uncharted areas on Earth, researchers today are aware that there is still a great deal to learn about cells in our microcosm. But instead of sextants and compasses, researchers nowadays use modern methods such as mass spectrometry to look into the world of protein molecules. Neuroscientists are focussed particularly on resolving brain complexity with its billions of specialized cells. To understand the brain’s functions, scientists from the Max Planck Institutes of Biochemistry in Martinsried and Experimental Medicine in Göttingen have for the first time quantified the entire set of proteins ‒ the proteome ‒ in the adult mouse brain. The information about which proteins and how many of them are found in the various cell types and regions has been summarized in a protein atlas. The results of these studies have now been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. more

Just as we can feel whether we are lying on a soft blanket or hard rocks, our cells sense whether they are in a soft or rigid mechanical environment. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying cells’ ability to detect tissue stiffness are largely unknown. Mechanical forces acting across individual molecules in cells are extremely small and cannot be measured by conventional methods. Scientists of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried have now developed a new technique to quantify forces of only a few piconewton in cells. As a result, the researchers were able to identify the central mechanism that allows cells to sense the rigidity of their environment. more

Complex life is only possible because proteins bind to each other, forming higher-order structures and signal pathways. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich and at the MPI of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden have now drawn a detailed map of human protein interactions. Using a novel mass spectrometric quantification method, the researchers determined the strength of each interaction. “Our data revealed that most interactions are weak, but critical for the structure of the entire network,” explains Marco Hein, first author of the study. The paper has now been published in the Journal Cell. more

Molecular machines made out of proteins are involved in virtually all processes of life. Proteins are produced in ribosomes, the protein factories. All proteins, which later get incorporated into membranes, leave the ribosome through the Sec61 channel. With the help of the latest developments in electron microscopy, researchers of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried have succeeded in imaging Sec61 in its natural environment in detail. Their research reveals the exact structure of the Sec61 channel and its mode of operation. An important improvement, because an erroneous transport of proteins has far-reaching effects. The results of the study were published in Nature Communications. more

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