Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology

In line with its scientific mission, "from molecule to man", the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology conducts basic biomedical research in Dortmund. At the interface between structural biology, molecular cell biology and chemical biology, the Institute’s scientists pursue an interdisciplinary research approach leading to a unique liaison between chemistry and biology. The scientific concept aims to achieve a holistic understanding of the dynamics of cellular reaction networks. By identifying and synthesising near-natural active substances, the scientists can accurately modulate intracellular processes. State of the art imaging methods are used to depict molecular reactions in cells. An important aspect of the scientists' systems-biological research work is the act of clarifying the molecular causes of diseases which, as in the case of cancer, are based on faulty intracellular signal transmission.


Otto-Hahn-Str. 11
44227 Dortmund
Phone: +49 231 133-0
Fax: +49 231 133-2699

PhD opportunities

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

IMPRS for Living Matter

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

A strategy by Max Planck scientist to assess the role of liquid-liquid phase separation drivers in cell division reveals poor predictive power of established assays


Max Plank researchers from Dortmund unveil how ring-like formin proteins promote actin filament growth


Scientists have identified the first inhibitors of a cancer-related RNA-modifier


Max Planck researchers from Dortmund reveal the first-ever detailed structure of the bacterial toxin Mcf1


"Soldier" bacteria filled with toxins sacrifice themselves for the benefit of their conspecifics, giving them pathogenic properties

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Nothing works with incomprehensible code – not even a cell. Patrick Cramer is carrying out research on the enzyme that transcribes the DNA code to enable a protein to be synthesized from a gene. To do so, he relies on high-resolution microscopes and artificial intelligence.

Bacteria, plants and animals are full of unknown substances that could be beneficial for humans. At the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Dortmund, Herbert Waldmann tests natural products for their biological efficacy and tries to mimic their effects with simpler molecules.

In movies, 3-D effects are spectacular. And also at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Dortmund, Stefan Raunser finds that three-dimensional images offer a visual feast. His electron microscopes enable him to determine the position of individual atoms with great precision and to study the spatial structure of proteins. In doing so, he occasionally encounters some bizarre constructions.

Lost in Transcription

MPR 4 /2010 Biology & Medicine

How does HIV get a host cell to produce viruses? Researchers are looking for the key in order to develop efficient therapies.

Student Research Assistant (m/f/d)

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Dortmund May 30, 2024

Postdoctoral position (physicist) (m/f/d) | Reversible cryo-microscopy development

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Dortmund May 13, 2024

How do our cells stay fit: A structural analysis of the corona reveals the secrets of cell division

2023 Cmentowski, Verena; Musacchio, Andrea

Cell Biology Physiology Structural Biology

Billions of cells in our body constantly undergo cell division, a complex process that usually occurs error-free in healthy cells. Even minor errors can result in cell degeneration or resistance to chemotherapy. The kinetochore, a complex, multi-layered protein structure attached to the chromosome, monitors faithful cell division. We reconstituted the main components of its outermost layer, the corona, determined its structure, and unveiled its cellular function. Our findings significantly advance our understanding of cell division in healthy and malignant cells. 


Stem cells - communication as a means of self-discovery 

2022 Schröter, Christian

Cell Biology Developmental Biology Physiology

Just a few weeks a completely new organism develops from a fertilised egg cell. It is almost a miracle when complex structures form from a bunch of stem cells as if by magic, without a blueprint or any further intervention. But stem cells do not leave their fate to pure chance: they live in an active, social community that is characterised by constant consultation. Our research on stem cells in the test tube shows how cells communicate with each other and how they encode and decode complex messages.


Anti-aging for the cytoskeleton with therapeutic potential

2021 Pospich, Sabrina.; Raunser, Stefan

Cell Biology Physiology Structural Biology

Whether antibiotics, cholesterol-lowering agents or fluorescent proteins: natural substances, for example from fungi and marine organisms, have always been used in medicine and science. Applying high-resolution cryo-electron microscopy, we have now been able to elucidate for the first time how two natural toxins influence the structure of actin filaments and thus the regulation of the cytoskeleton. While these toxins are already of great use for research, one day they could be used to specifically agglutinate the cytoskeleton of cancer cells and thus kill them. 


Starving cancer cells

2020 Ziegler, Slava; Waldmann, Herbert

Cell Biology Physiology

Tumours grow much faster than healthy tissue. Cancer cells get the energy and building blocks they need by a ten times higher sugar uptake compared to normal body cells. One could say that cancer cells are addicted to sugar. We exploit this natural weakness and put cancer cells on a radical sugar diet by applying a series of self-developed active substances so that they starve and die.


Electroporation revisited: from a test tube to the living cell

2019 Alex, Amal; Maffini, Stefano; Musacchio, Andrea

Cell Biology Physiology Structural Biology

Cell division requires the coordinated activities of multiple cellular components, such as the kinetochore. This large protein assembly connects chromosomes to the mitotic spindle apparatus and thereby enables their movement. Understanding cell division requires a multidisciplinary approach in which the function of kinetochore components is studied either individually, in a test tube, or inside the living cells. To overtake the challenges of integrating these two approaches, we developed a method to study cell division, or other cellular processes, by directly delivering proteins into cells.

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