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 in Chemical and Molecular Biology

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

Gatekeeper for poison capsule

Researchers decode the toxin complex of the plague bacterium and other germs.

<p>Inspiring new drug discovery by pseudo natural products</p>

New class of natural substances "starves" cancer cells

Scientists model a crucial component of cell division

Researchers synthesize kinetochore and analyze the way it functions

Why is Usain Bolt the fastest person on Earth?

Max Planck researchers observe muscles at work with the help of new microscopes

Sharper than living matter permits

Max Planck researchers outsmart the biological uncertainty principle


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.

Postdoctoral Researcher position in Bioinformatics (m/w/d)

Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Dortmund March 18, 2019

Tracking hereditary processes with neo-functionalized proteins

2018 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

2017 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

2016 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.


Elucidation of autophagy using novel chemical probes

2015 Wu, Yaowen

Cell Biology Chemistry Physiology Structural Biology

Autophagy is an important self-eating process in cells to eliminate or recycle cellular components or proteins out of use and takes place in cell organelles called autophagosomes. Development of autophagosome membranes involves complicated assemblies of lipids and proteins, highly regulated by a network of signals. Chemical probes including chemically modified proteins and small molecules enable researchers to elucidate the regulation mechanism of autophagy and molecular basis of autophagosome formation, previously not possible using traditional biochemical and cell biological approaches.


Bacterial nano syringes

2014 Gatsogiannis, Christos; Raunser, Stefan

Cell Biology Chemistry Physiology Structural Biology

Bacteria use different strategies to manipulate and infect their host. Researchers at the MPI of Molecular Physiology were able to reveal a novel mechanism by which the Tc toxins of the bacterium Photorhabdus luminescens attack insect cells. An exceptional molecular cocoon containing a deadly component and a unique nano syringe play important parts in this mechanism. The new findings are critical to understand the transport of these toxic cargoes through membranes and serve as a strong foundation for the development of medical applications.

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