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.

Max Planck Institute’s researchers use electron cryo-tomography to reveal novel molecular details of skeletal sarcomeres


Max Planck scientists from Dortmund find immunoregulatory substances with newly developed test system


GTSE1 regulates microtubules and thus prevents errors in the distribution of chromosomes


One day, medical compounds could be introduced into cells with the help of bacterial toxins


Five Max Planck researchers win EU funding


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.

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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.


How cells perceive their environment

2018 Bastiaens, Philippe; Krämer, Astrid

Cell Biology Physiology Structural Biology

Do cells have ‚sensory organs’ that enable them to perceive their cellular environment? Using experimental and theoretical approaches, the Department of Systemic Cell Biology investigates how cells perceive their complex environment and adapt to its changes. Our research reveals the dynamic characteristics of the protein networks involved and allows us to identify the principles that govern the setup of these perceiver networks.


Tracking hereditary processes with neo-functionalized proteins

2017 Neumann, Heinz

Cell Biology Chemistry Physiology Structural Biology

How the hereditary material in the cell nucleus is organized determines its flexibility in structure and composition that underlies the genetic processes. Researchers at the MPI of molecular Physiology developed methods using genetically encoded cross-linker amino acids to study chromatin changes in living cells. They have discovered an interaction between nucleosomes which contributes to the condensation of chromosomes during mitosis. In future studies, these methods will help to analyze hereditary processes during the cell cycle.


High throughput drug discovery

2016 Sievers, Sonja; Waldmann, Herbert

Cell Biology Structural Biology

Small molecules interact with cellular components and thereby influence biological processes. In order to facilitate and accelerate the discovery of bioactive small molecules, an infrastructure for the storage and screening of small molecules was installed at the Compound Management and Screening Center (COMAS). The COMAS is an important mile stone in the Max Planck-Society`s exploitation of Know-How for medical research and the development of new pharmaceutical applications.


How to control chromosome segregation in mitosis: the kinetochore at the heart of the check point

2015 Basilico, Federica; Breit, Claudia; Keller, Jenny; Klare, Kerstin; Krenn, Veronica; Maffini, Stefano; Overlack, Katharina; Petrovic, Arsen; Primorac, Ivana; Weir, John; Musacchio, Andrea

Cell Biology Structural Biology

During cell division, from each chromosome, the carriers of a cell's genome, identical copies are made in the mother cell. These are later transmitted to the two daughter cells in a process called chromosome “segregation”. Chromosome segregation requires specialized structures named kinetochores, which are established on a specialized region of each chromosome named the centromere. Kinetochores are multi-protein assemblies, and they are required to connect the chromosomes to a dynamic structure, the mitotic spindle, whose main function is to separate the replicated chromosomes.

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