Press releases - News from the MPI of Biochemistry

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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 Plank 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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Ralf Jungmann named Allen Distinguished Investigator

July 27, 2017
Ralf Jungmann from the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried and Jan Ellenberg from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory have been named Allen Distinguished Investigators by the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group for their pioneering research approach in epigenetics. Each of the five awards is endowed with $1.5 million over a period of three years. [more]
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Multicoloured microcosm: 124 colours thanks to RGB technology

June 22, 2017
Red, green and blue: normally, no more than three different colours can be detected simultaneously in fluorescence microscopy. Thanks to recent RGB nanotechnology, similar to that used in computer monitors, it is now possible to generate 124 virtual colours under the microscope. The three primary colours are arranged in various mixing ratios on a special DNA lattice. This creates individual colour pixels under the microscope. The new method was developed by scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University in the US. The team’s work was published in the journal Science Advances [more]
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Advanced ERC Grant for Elena Conti

May 16, 2017
Elena Conti, head of the department „Structural Cell Biology“ at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried receives the Advanced Grant of the European Research Council for the second time. It comes with a funding of more than two million Euros for five years. Together with her team, she investigates the interaction of the exosomes and ribosomes. These are the major players in essential cellular processes – governing the synthesis and degradation of RNAs and proteins. Major foundations of planned work were laid by the Conti group in the earlier ERC Advanced Grant, which characterized structure and function of the exosome. [more]
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