Yearbook 2007

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A gene’s influence on an organism’s Darwinian fitness ultimately determines whether it will be lost, maintained or modified by natural selection, yet biologists have few gene expression systems in which to measure whole-organism gene function. In the Department of Molecular Ecology scientists are training “molecularly-enabled field biologists” to use transformed plants silenced in the expression of environmentally-regulated genes and the plant’s native habitats as “laboratories". Research done in these labs will, so they hope, increase our understanding of the influence of a gene on plants’ Darwinian fitness. more
Most animals are strongly dependent on odour information to survive and to reproduce. This dependency has in many species created very sensitive and specific odour-detecting systems – olfaction. One well-known interaction is the strong attraction of male dogs to a bitch in heat. In science a considerable amount of information is today available regarding olfactory structure and function from several model systems, including mice and fruitflies. Insects have proven to be interesting objects for olfactory studies, mainly because most of them are extremely odour-dependent, but also because their olfactory system can be used as a model both for olfactory functions and for sensory structure and evolution in general. more
We present a new strategy for the theory-guided bottom up design of novel materials. The approach is based on the combination of ab initio simulations for providing detailed computational guidance in selecting suited thermodynamic systems with experimental verification. The new theory-based design procedure is outlined using as an example of a set of Ti-based materials for biomedical applications. more
Newly developed high manganese light-weight steels based on the Fe-Mn-Al-Si-C alloy system feature in comparison to conventional steels density reduction of 15 %, high tensile strengths up to 1100 MPa, exceptionally high plastic elongations up to 90 %, and excellent formability. Important for the presented alloy developments is the activation of special metallophysical strengthening and deformation mechanisms due to an appropriate alloy design. more

Why do plants not get sunburn?

Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion Holzwarth, Alfred R.; Miloslavina, Yuliya; Müller, Marc G.; Szczepaniak, Malwina; Ostroumov, Evgenyi; Slavov, Chavdar
Plants exhibit highly efficient protection mechanisms that prevent the damaging influence of high excessive light intensities. In these processes the excess energy absorbed in the light-harvesting complexes of the photosystems is converted into heat. Recent studies allowed to assign these protection mechanisms to specific components of the photosynthetic apparatus. In order to gain insight into these regulation mechanisms special methods of ultrafast fluorescence spectroscopy were developed which – in combination with the use of mutants – allowed to study molecular details of the protection mechanisms. more
During the evolution of a population, advantageous mutations are accumulated. This enhances the fitness of the population until all advantageous mutations are fixed. Under which circumstances does this process proceed fastest? A mathematical calculation shows that an exponential increase of fitness is optimal for small mutation rates. For high mutation rates, the process is faster if the fitness increases only in the last step. more
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