2012

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are characterized by toxic protein aggregates in certain regions of the brain and nerve cells. The objective of the project of F.-Ulrich Hartl, Wolfgang Baumeister, Rüdiger Klein and Matthias Mann is to elucidate just how this aggregation process is linked to cytotoxicity and cell death. For their project, the four directors of the Max Planck Institutes of Biochemistry and of Neurobiology in Martinsried near Munich, Germany, have now been awarded a Synergy Grant of the European Research Council (ERC). The four professors will use the 13.9 million euros in funding to establish closely collaborating research groups throughout the project lifetime of six years. The ERC Synergy Grant is the most highly endowed research grant of the European Union and was awarded this year for the first time more

The genome encodes the complete information needed by an organism, including that required for protein production. Viruses, which are up to a thousand times smaller than human cells, have considerably smaller genomes. Using a type of herpesvirus as a model system, the scientists of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich and their collaboration partners at the University of California in San Francisco have shown that the genome of this virus contains much more information than previously assumed. The researchers identified several hundred novel proteins, many of which were surprisingly small. The results of the study have now been published in Science.

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The European Research Council (ERC) encourages excellent basic research in Europe in order to promote visionary projects and open up new interdisciplinary science areas. Three young group leaders of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) in Martinsried near Munich succeeded in obtaining one of the coveted “ERC Starting Grants”. Spread over a period of five years, Esben Lorentzen, Andreas Pichlmair and Frank Schnorrer will receive € 1.5 million each for their research projects. Due to their scientific achievements until now they were the winners against several thousand competitors. At the beginning of this year, the European Research Council already honored an MPIB-scientist, when Director Elena Conti received the “ERC Advanced Grant”.

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For viruses to spread, they must enter host cells to replicate, assemble and propagate. Scientists of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich and the Research Center for Molecular Medicine (CeMM) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna have for the first time performed a comprehensive survey of the antiviral defense strategies of human cells. They were able to identify vulnerable points in the immune system that viruses modulate for their own purposes. In the survey the researchers compared the attack strategies of 30 well-known viruses. The insights gained from the study may advance the development of new antiviral therapies in the future. The findings have now been published in Nature. more

Every second, thousands of proteins fulfil essential tasks as molecular building blocks or molecular machines in the cells of our bodies. Matthias Mann, director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) in Martinsried, is to receive the Körber European Science Prize 2012 for his ground-breaking work on the proteome, the entirety of all proteins of a living organism. This research award comes with prize money of 750,000 Euros and will be presented on September 7, 2012, in Hamburg, Germany.
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Proteins are the cell’s molecular building material and machinery, and they are involved in nearly every bioprocess. Together with Arthur L. Horwich (Yale University, USA), Franz-Ulrich Hartl, director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, will be awarded the 2012 Shaw Prize in Life Sciences and Medicine for his research on protein folding. The prize comes with a shared $1,000,000 honorarium and will be awarded by the Shaw Prize Foundation on September 17, 2012. more

As the interface between the cell and its environment, the cell membrane, which consists of fats and proteins, fulfils a variety of vital functions. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich have performed the first comprehensive analysis of the molecular structure of this boundary layer, and revealed precisely how it is organised. In yeast cells, the entire membrane is made up of independent domains, each containing just one or a few protein types. If a protein is relocated to an inappropriate domain, it may even fail to function. The study shows that the membrane is a kind of patchwork quilt and should help scientists to gain a better understanding of basic cellular processes. more

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