Yearbook 2017

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Tensors are higher-dimensional matrices. They provide an efficient way to store big data sets and to analyze them statistically. Using the decomposition into tensors of rank 1, hidden structures and correlations can be discovered. The geometry of tensors plays an important role in this research area. more
The collective and correlated migration of cells as a group is a hallmark of tissue remodeling events. As such it is essential to both life-supporting processes, like wound repair and embryonic morphogenesis, as well as pathological processes, like cancer invasion. The Max Planck researchers have successfully decoded the physical and molecular mechanisms that regulate networking and orientation in groups of cells that move as one. more

Activity-independent neuronal network formation in the brain

Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine Brose, Nils; Sigler, Albrecht; Imig, Cordelia; Altas, Bekir; Kawabe, Hiroshi; Cooper, Benjamin; Kwon, Hyung-Bae; Rhee, Jeong-Seop
According to the current dogma in neuroscience, neurons in the brain must communicate actively with each other to establish functional networks. Recent results now demonstrate that neurons in a brain region that is critically involved in learning and memory processes can connect and form structurally normal networks without active signal transmission at their synaptic contact points. more
Coordination of food intake, locomotion and sleep is crucial for survival, its impairment is a symptom of multiple sleep and eating disorders. We found that optogenetic activation of GABA cells in the lateral hypothalamus leads to awakening from non-REM sleep and increases food intake. Further we characterized the neuronal circuit, which connects the prefrontal cortex and the lateral hypothalamus and utilizes gamma oscillations to organize function-selective firing of neurons and to promote food-seeking. more
From 1998 to 2012, the Earth’s surface warmed more slowly than expected. Many climate scientists explained that this slowdown was caused by the oceans, which drew heat downward, away from the surface. The authors of a new study question this view: variations in the energy radiated from the surface to space could also have caused the slowdown. Furthermore, the amount of energy required to cause a slowdown is smaller than previously thought. It is in fact considerably smaller than the observational uncertainty, which suggests that the true origin of the recent slowdown may never be discovered. more
Methane is an end product of anaerobic degradation of organic materials and is a potent greenhouse gas. Roughly, half of the world-wide methane emission is biologically performed by methanogenic archaea. We are interested in the enzymes involved in hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis. Here, we report on the crystal structure of the formyl-methanofuran dehydrogenase (Fwd) and heterodisulfide-reductase/hydrogenase complexes (Hdr/Mvh). These enzyme complexes are involved in the sequential reactions of ferredoxin reduction and CO2-reduction/fixation within the methanogenic pathway. more

Deep-sea creatures thrive on oil – teamwork is the key to success

Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology Wegener, Gunter; Borowski, Christian; Laso-Pérez, Raphael; Rubin-Blum, Maxim; Boetius, Antje; Dubilier, Nicole
Scientists from Bremen discovered deep-sea organisms that thrive on oil as an energy source. Natural oil leakages exist on the bottom of the ocean in several thousand meters water depth. These sites harbor microorganisms that feed on the volatile compounds of the oil such as ethane, butane and propane. Diverse groups of microorganisms cooperate in teams and some specialized bacteria even live in symbiosis with marine invertebrates and feed them with the products of oil degradation. The Bremen scientists have investigated how they achieve their goal. more
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