Yearbook 2007

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In the developing embryo of the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster the protein Stardust forms a complex with the proteins Crumbs and DPATJ, which is required to maintain epithelial polarity and integrity. In addition, mutations in these genes impair morphogenesis of photoreceptor cells and result in light-dependent retinal degeneration – the flies get blind. The group of Elisabeth Knust has shown that the gene stardust is a genetically complex locus, which encodes several proteins, which may exert different functions. Some of these proteins are only expressed in the embryo, while others can be found only in the eye. These results suggest that Stardust-based protein scaffolds are dynamic, which is not only mediated by multiple interaction partners, but in addition by various forms of the Stardust protein itself. These results have further implications. All proteins of the complex are conserved in human and are expressed in the photoreceptor cells. Loss of CRB1, the homologue of the Drosophila crumbs gene, results in blindness of the affected people. more
Many chemical or biophysical processes involve molecules that are insoluble or non-crystalline. Consider, for instance, the functional control of membrane proteins by external ligands or the formation of protein aggregates in the context of Alzheimer´s or Parkinson’s disease. In such systems, solid-state NMR can offer unique possibilities to elucidate structural or dynamic parameters at atomic resolution. more
Circadian clocks regulate a plethora of physiological processes including the sleep/wake cycle, blood pressure and body temperature. Such clocks enable organisms to adjust to the 24-hour day/night cycle resulting from the rotation of the earth. Virtually all living beings have a circadian clock and in the case of multicellular organisms, most cell types house such a clock. The clock mechanism consists of a stable network of genes and proteins that mutually regulate each other, thereby not only establishing a self-sustaining clockwork but enabling this clock to adjust to periodic environmental changes such as availability of light and access to food. more
Scientists of the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry have developed two geochemical databases, GEOROC and GeoReM, which are used by earth and environmental scientists from all over the world. The public databases are available online and contain tens of thousands published chemical analyses of geological and environmental samples as well as of nearly all (1600) international reference materials. more
With the launch of the satellite instrument ‘GOME’ in April 1995 it became possible for the first time to measure the distribution of several surface-near trace gases. In the derived ‘trace gas-worldmaps’ various emission sources can be identified and quantified. By comparison with numerical simulations it is possible to test and improve the budgets of atmospheric pollutants and greenhouse gases. more
Magnetic resonance imaging is the most important tool in modern Neuroscience. Due to the continuing improvements in spatial and temporal resolution in this imaging modality, great progress could be made in the field of brain science. Nowadays, however, a point has been reached where further improvements in resolution is limited. The use of so called high-field systems can overcome these limits and facilitate new findings about the human brain. more
Is it possible to tell from a person’s brain activity, what this person is currently thinking, feeling or even what he or she is planning to do? Recent research has shown that it is possible to decode and predict a person’s thoughts from functional magnetic resonance imaging signals. Such “thought reading” based on brain activity can be useful in revealing how the brain encodes information. This line of research also has a number of clinical applications such as for the control of computers and artificial prostheses based on brain activity or for the detection of cognitive activity in fully paralysed patients. more
Professional decision makers like executives and judges are confronted with complex situations every day. This article presents decision strategies and problems in the practical application of probability theory and heuristics in legal decision making. It is argued that decision makers come to good decisions by efficiently combining intuitive and deliberate processes. An analysis of the code of criminal procedure reveals that legal institutions already support these processes. more
The characterization of molecular mechanisms of interactions between peptides and cell membranes is very important for the understanding of structure-function relations. These are studied with 2-dimensional monolayers at fluid interfaces using modern biophysical methods. This report shows how the interface influences the secondary structure of the peptides, and vice versa how the peptide adsorption leads to changes in the structure of phospholipid layers. more
The rational design of pores and channel systems within „soft materials“ such as polymers, carbonaceous materials, or carbon nitrides enables the generation of novel chemical systems with novel effects. This short overview deals with the resulting phenomena, such as metal free heterogeneous catalysis, membranes for the fuel cell, polymeric gas storage materials, but also with sustainable synthesis techniques such as the hydrothermal carbonization for the generation of sorption coals. more
Knowledge about neural signaling originates from experiments where the activity of a neuron is correlated with stimuli. Meanwhile, simultaneous recording from many neurons is possible. With new mathematical methods such experiments can be used to determine the response properties of neural networks rather than of individual cells. This allows us to analyze how retinal images are processed collectively by neural networks in the visual pathway. more
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