Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology

Founded in 1994, the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology investigates metabolic and molecular processes in plant cells, tissues and organs. The goal of the Institute's research is not only to understand the molecular details of individual processes such as the uptake of substances, the structure, storage, transport and mobilisation of plant components as well as the regulation of these processes, but also to figure out how these different processes interact and are integrated. In this Systems Biology approach, experimental and computational scientists interact closely to understand how metabolism and plant growth are organised and regulated, and how they are affected by different environmental factors.


Am Mühlenberg 1
14476 Potsdam-Golm
Phone: +49 331 567-80
Fax: +49 331 567-8408

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):
IMPRS Primary Metabolism and Plant Growth

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Organelle Biology, Biotechnology and Molecular Ecophysiology more
Research highlights from our yearbook
The yearbook of the Max Planck Society illustrates the research carried out at our institutes. We selected a few reports from our 2017 yearbook to illustrate the variety and diversity of topics and projects. more
Marine microalgae: an address plaque for calcium
A biochemical mechanism controls which nanostructures are formed in calcite-forming microorganisms more
New plant engineering method could help fill demand for crucial malaria drug
Novel methods could enable inexpensive mass production for drugs more
Fighting the Colorado potato beetle with RNA
RNA interference protects potato plants against herbivore attack more
Wild genes enhance stress tolerance
The genome of the wild tomato Solanum pennellii provides clues as to why this tomato species is so tolerant to stress more
Making new species without sex
Plants can transfer their entire genetic material to a partner in an asexual manner more
Plants recycle too

Plants recycle too

February 14, 2014
Researchers discover new adapter proteins for endocytosis in plants more
Silver Banksia plants excel at phosphate saving
The Australian plant family is highly efficient in the management of the nutrient more
Cellulose goes off the rails
Without microtubule guidance cellulose causes changes in organ patterns during growth more
Sugar influences the onset of flowering
Only when light, age and energy conditions are right do plants flower more
Carbon dioxide could reduce crop yields
High-yielding dwarf plant varieties lose their advantage due to increasing carbon dioxide concentration more
Ethylene of no effect – why peppers do not mature after picking
Climacteric and non-climacteric fruits react differently to the plant hormone ethylene more
Direct transfer of plant genes from chloroplasts into the cell nucleus
Gene function preserved despite structural differences in the DNA more
Genetic information migrates from plant to plant
Sexually incompatible species exchange chloroplast genomes at contact zones more
Genetic fingerprint reveals new efficient maize cultivars
A computer model predicts the ability of different maize lines to produce high-yield offspring more
When plant pollen fertilizes an ovum, the genetic material in the nucleus and the chloroplasts must harmonize. Stephan Greiner from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Golm, near Potsdam, would like to find out which factors in the chloroplasts prevent the interbreeding of plant species. To do this, he works with a model plant that’s not too particular when it comes to the species boundary: the evening primrose.
Plants have lived in close community with certain fungi for millions of years. The microorganisms provide them with vital mineral salts such as phosphate, and in return, they supply the fungi with carbohydrates. Franziska Krajinski from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Golm observes how these unequal partners establish contact with each other and exchange nutrients.
The company metanomics systematically influences plant characteristics through their genes, for example to increase yields.
How were plant cells, and thus higher forms of life on Earth, able to evolve from bacteria? Ralph Bock, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Golm, has been exploring this question for many years.
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The prospects of understanding calcite formation in coccolithophorid algae

2018 Scheffel, André
Cell Biology Physiology Plant Research Structural Biology
Coccolithophores are single-celled marine algae that form intricately-shaped scales made of the mineral calcite. Such complex biominerals are interesting models for bioinspired materials chemistry. Biogenic calcite formation is an important component of the global carbon cycle and exerts major influence on our climate. Understanding calcite biomineralization in coccolithophores has the potential to revolutionize the synthesis of materials for nanotechnology and to improve our predictive models for the future of biogenic calcification, which is relevant for future life on our planet. more

Mobile RNA - do plant cells send a double message?

2017 Kragler, Friedrich
Cell Biology Plant Research
Plant tissues exchange Protein-encoding RNA molecules. These mobile RNA molecules are evolutionary conserved and found in distantly related plant species. In target tissues mobile mRNAs are translated into proteins. The observed high number of mobile RNAs - approximately 20% transcribed genes produce mobile RNAs - questions the concept of cell autonomy and how we define signals in plant science. more

Lifetimes of photosynthetic complexes in higher plants

2016 Schöttler, Mark A.
Plant Research
Plants need to precisely adjust the capacity of photosynthetic electron transport to produce ATP and NADPH to their consumption by the Calvin cycle. Otherwise, an overcapacity of electron transport would lead to an increased production of reactive oxygen species and the destruction of the photosynthetic apparatus. To avoid this, the electron transport capacity is regulated by adjustments of the rate-limiting cytochrome b6f complex. We have analyzed the contribution of complex biogenesis versus degradation to this adjustment. more

Large-scale model predictions by integration of high-throughput data

2015 Kleeßen, Sabrina; Robaina-Estevez, Semidan; Nikoloski, Zoran
Plant Research

In modern biology research, essential aspects of the accumulated genomic and biochemical knowledge are often described as mathematical formulas resulting in metabolic models. These models can be readily used to make predictions. Because of the increasing amount of available high-throughput technologies, there is need for the development of methods allowing the characterization of the activity patterns of metabolic pathways. The ultimate goal of integrating these methods and data is to enhance understanding of plant growth and to improve it.


The massively increased breadth of sequence variability information allows new avenues in plant research

2014 Korkuć, Paula; Childs, Liam; Walther, Dirk
Cell Biology Genetics Physiology Plant Research Structural Biology

The introduction of novel sequencing technologies has led to a massive expansion of genomic sequence information. Completely sequenced genomes of hundreds of different ecotypes of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana are now available. Applying bioinformatics methods, the extensive sequence information can be exploited for the identification of trait associated genes or novel regulatory elements.


Raiding wild species gene banks for crop improvement

2013 Fernie, Alisdair R.
Plant Research

Naturally occurring variation in wild species can be used to enhance the genetic diversity of cultivated crops and improve agronomic value. Understanding metabolic pathways and the interactions between genes, phenotype and environment is fundamental to influence crop quality. Metabolic profiling is a rapidly expanding technology for the evaluation of natural variance of metabolite content when carried out alongside nutritional and taste studies and represents a powerful approach for delineating the genetic determinants of plant chemical composition.

Plants do not only produce oxygen, they also use it as a substrate for respiratory energy production. However, the oxygen concentration within plant tissues can drop to very low levels (hypoxia), because plants lack any active distribution system for oxygen. During recent years, much new knowledge has become available about how plant metabolism adapts to the regularly occurring hypoxic conditions within a plant and how oxygen concentrations in plants are being sensed. more

Two skeleton meet: the plant cell wall and the cytoskeleton

2011 Persson, Staffan; Sampathkumar, Arun; Bringmann, Martin
Cell Biology Plant Research
All plant cells are surrounded by a carbohydrate-rich matrix, referred to as cell walls, which protect the plant against the environment and provide structural support. Cellulose is a key component of the wall and for human activities, including textile and paper industries. Cellulose is made at the cell surface by heteromeric protein complexes that are directed by the cells internal skeleton, the cytoskeleton. We have deduced the dynamic behavior of the cytoskeletal components in plants, and discovered a potential linking factor between the cellulose synthesizing complex and the cytoskeleton. more

Lipid-Rafts – Specialized Areas of the Plasma Membrane

2010 Schulze, Waltraud; Kierszniowska, Sylwia
Cell Biology Plant Research
Plasma membranes are dynamic compartments with key functions in solute transport, cell shape and in communication between cells and the environment. In all organisms plasma membranes are compartmented into sterol-rich microdomains, which are defined by their resistance to treatment with non-ionic detergents and have specific roles in signal transduction and regulatory processes. This microdomains are called "lipid rafts”. Now the composition of true sterol-dependent 'raft proteins' and sterol-independent 'non-raft' proteins was for the first time experimentally clearly defined. more

Regulation of the Phosphat Homoeostasis in Plants

2009 Scheible, Wolf-Rüdiger
Plant Research
Phosphate (P) limitation is an important and common stress for plants in many parts of the world. Plants have evolved a number of adaptive mechanisms to cope with and to survive in such conditions. Apart from the acquisition of alternative external P sources and more efficient use of internal P, the maintenance of phosphate homeostasis plays an important role in this scenario. Homeostasis thereby involves sensible reallocation of the spare resource taken up by the roots to growing and reproductive organs. The regulatory mechanism required for this purpose has now been elucidated and yields surprising insights. more
Frost is an important factor limiting geographical distribution and agricultural productivity of plants. Temperate zone plants can adapt to low growth temperatures and thereby increase in freezing tolerance. The analysis of populations of the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana derived from natural habitats with different climatic conditions shows the complexity of the cold acclimation response both on the physiological and the molecular level. more

Reconstruction of genome evolution in the laboratory

2007 Bock, Ralph
Evolutionary Biology Plant Research
The transfer of genes from organelles to the nucleus and the conversion of such prokaryotic genes into functional eukaryotic genes occur only on large evolutionary timescale and thus have escaped rigorous experimental analysis. The design of stringent selection schemes for gene transfer from the plastid to the plant’s nuclear genome has now made it possible to reproduce such extremely rare events in the laboratory. more

Gene silencing in transgenic plants

2006 Schmidt, Renate; Arlt, Matthias
Genetics Plant Research
Gene silencing is frequently observed in transgenic plants. A molecular genetic approach was taken to show that gene silencing was triggered if the transcript level of the introduced transgenes surpassed a gene-specific threshold. more
Photosynthesis in green plants is the basis for all life on earth. The chlorophyll-protein complexes of photosynthesis are embedded into the thylakoid membranes of chloroplasts. Chloroplasts are capable of synthesizing a unique set of membrane lipids and isoprenoid lipids, some of which are essential for human nutrition, e.g., tocopherol (vitamin E), phylloquinone (vitamin K) and β-carotene (provitamin A). Galactolipids represent the most abundant membrane lipid class in chloroplasts. The analysis of Arabidopsis mutants revealed that galactolipids are essential for growth and photosynthesis. Furthermore, galactolipids are critical during growth on phosphate-limiting soils, because they replace phospholipids in the membranes and make phosphate available for other important cellular processes. Tocopherol (vitamin E) is one of the most important antioxidants. Thus, vitamin E is used as a major dietary supplement for human nutrition. Interestingly, growth and photosynthesis of Arabidopsis mutants carrying a defect in tocopherol biosynthesis are very similar to wild type, indicating that tocopherol can be substituted by other antioxidants in the plant cell. Employing biotechnological approaches, the natural form of vitamin E required to serve a growing population might be derived from transgenic crop plants in the near future. more
Modern experimental methods enable the production of large quantities of data about molecular components of cells and their activities. The analysis and interpretation of these data require bioinformatical procedures by means of which patterns and relationships are discovered and correlated to known knowledge about metabolic and regulatory networks. The availability of information about the totality of genetic materials (genome), transcribed genes (transcriptome), translated proteins (proteome) and participating metabolites (metabolome) promises new chances of understanding the reaction of organisms to environmental changes on one hand but this also means new requirements to data processing on the other hand. more
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