Press releases - News from the MPI of Biochemistry

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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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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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