Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics

How do cells form tissues? How do tissues form organisms? Cell and developmental biologists at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden devote their research to discovering how cell division and cell differentiation work, which structures can be found in cell organelles and how cells exchange information and materials. Physical processes play an important role here; processes which, for instance, influence the movement of molecular motors, such as actin and myosin. Model organisms like the fruit fly, zebrafish, roundworm or mouse help the 25 research groups to find answers to the very basic questions of life. Often, this research includes investigating diseases like diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's Disease or retinal degeneration.


Pfotenhauerstr. 108
01307 Dresden
Phone: +49 351 210-0
Fax: +49 351 210-2000

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS for Cell, Developmental and Systems Biology

Doctoral candidates are only accepted through the IMPRS-CellDevoSys selection procedure, which is conducted once a year.

Origin of life in membraneless protocells

Microdroplets are a great place for RNA concentration and activity

International Vertebrate Genomes Project releases new genomes

Max Planck Society supports projects for high quality reference genomes of animals

Proteins for brain folding discovered

Dresden researchers discover molecular mechanism underlying human neocortex folding

The evolution of testes

Molecular vestiges resolve the controversial evolution of the testicular position in mammals

Gene loss can prove to be an advantage

Mammals have profited repeatedly in evolution from losing genes


Artists and architects of all eras have been inspired by symmetry in nature. This is hardly surprising, as symmetry is considered the epitome of beauty – and mirror symmetry is the absolute gold standard. Jochen Rink from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden is seeking to discover how organisms define the mirror plane and thereby fulfill the basic prerequisite for a symmetrical body structure. To do this he studies flatworms and their astonishing ability to regenerate missing body parts.

Many biomolecules move through cells like microscopic machines. Often, however, it isn’t known what forces these molecules generate or how fast the molecules act or move. That’s why Stephan Grill from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden decided to specialize in measuring molecular forces. He uses optical tweezers to pull gently on DNA strands. His method is shedding light on the proteins that read genetic information.

Eugene W. Myers never attended a biology lecture. Nevertheless, he made a career for himself in this field, and by developing a computer program, made a major contribution to decoding the human genome. The bioinformatician has recently become a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and at the Center for Systems Biology in Dresden.

No job offers available

The virtual liver

2018 Zerial, Marino; Meyer, Kirstin; Ostrenko, Oleksandr; Bourantas, Georgios; Morales-Navarrete, Hernan; Porat-Shliom, Natalie; Segovia-Miranda, Fabian; Nonaka, Hidenori; Ghaemi,Ali; Verbavatz,  Jean-Marc; Brusch, Lutz;  Sbalzarini, Ivo F.; Kalaidzidis, Yannis;  Weigert, Roberto

Cell Biology Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics Neurosciences Structural Biology

Researchers of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden developed a predictive 3D multi-scale model based on quantitative image analysis that stimulate the fluid dynamic properties of bile in the liver. This model can help to functionally characterize liver diseases, specific treatment options as well as drug-induced liver injury. Therefore, it is a promising tool for drug development to test and predict the effects of pharmacological compounds on the liver. The research team is now working on a strategy to calibrate this model to human biliary fluid dynamics.


Molecular trains on different tracks

2017 Pigino, Gaia

Cell Biology Structural Biology

The cilium, an antenna-like structure in the cell, undergoes rapid assembly and disassembly. This is enabled by a bidirectional train-like transport system called intraflagellar transport (IFT). In healthy cells, IFT happens collision free and without traffic jams, but if IFT fails, various human pathologies arise. Recent findings show how the cell prevents collisions by placing trains going in opposite directions on different rails.


Cells in stand-by mode - How cells escape starvation by solidifying

2017 Alberti, Simon; Munder, Matthias Christoph

Cell Biology

When cells do not get enough nutrients, their energy level drops. This leads to a decrease of the pH value of the liquid interior of the cell, the cytoplasm – the cells acidify. In response, the cells enter into a kind of stand-by mode, enabling them to survive. How cells switch on and off this stand-by mode is unknown. The Max-Planck researchers might have found the answer: The cytoplasm of the seemingly dead cells changes its consistency from liquid to solid, thereby protecting the sensitive structures in the cellular interior.


Defective cell division: How the cell compensates for mistakes

2016 Norden, Caren; Dzafic, Edo; Strzyz, Paulina J.

Cell Biology Developmental Biology

During cell division in animal cells, mistakes can occur, which can have serious consequences for a developing organ and organism. For example, if the nuclei of retinal progenitor cells do not move upwards in the cell before undergoing division, the two daughter cells cannot reintegrate into the tissue. Also, when parts of the centrosome – the regulator of cell division – are erroneously duplicated, abnormalities of cell division can occur. The research lab of Caren Norden wants to understand how cell biology drives morphogenesis.


A gene for bigger brains

2016 Huttner, Wieland

Evolutionary Biology Neurosciences

The gene ARHGAP11B is only found in humans. This gene causes basal brain stem cells to form a bigger pool. In that way, more neurons can be produced during brain development, and the cerebral cortex can expand – this expansion enables higher cognitive functions like thinking and language. Likewise, a sustained expression of the transcription factor Pax6 in basal brain stem cells is crucial for them to proliferate and to produce more neurons. This can be mimicked in mouse cortical stem cells: Their behavior switches to that of primate stem cells, resulting in the generation of more neurons.

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