Yearbook 2009

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A Bibliotheca Hertziana research project looks at the official art and architecture in Fascist Italy between 1936 and 1943, during the period of the ‘Rome-Berlin Axis’ proclaimed by Mussolini. The way in which the regime presented itself and the way in which the two totalitarian states perceived and influenced each other is of particular interest. The study focuses on Adolf Hitler’s visit to Rome in 1938, the events leading up to it and its consequences. more
The genetic information encoded by DNA is transcribed to mRNA molecules which are subsequently translated into proteins. However, only a minor portion of the human genome encodes for proteins. The bulk of the human DNA is non-coding. Interestingly, non-coding DNA is constantly transcribed into non-coding RNA and it was found that such non-coding RNAs have fundamental cellular functions. Extensive research of the past years revealed that non-coding RNAs can also play important roles in the pathogenesis of diseases including various forms of cancer. more
The genes of an organism are only the blueprint for the real functional entities of the cell - the proteins. So far it was unfortunately not possible to analyse proteins with the same accuracy and depth as the genetic material, the DNA. Scientists at the Max-Planck Institute of Biochemistry have now measured the totality of all proteins of an organism – its proteome – for the first time. Possible applications of this technology include almost all areas of basic biology and may include cancer diagnosis in the future. more
The increasing loss of global biodiversity has generated concern about the consequences for ecosystem functioning. The relationships between plant diversity and ecosystem processes are investigated in the “Jena Experiment”, a large biodiversity experiment with grassland species. A central issue of this research is to contribute to a mechanistic understanding of biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships, for which the analyses of species functional characteristics is a substantial prerequisite. more

Identification of a molecular ‘switch’ controlling blood vessel growth

Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine Benedito, Rui; Roca, Cristina; Sörensen, Inga; Adams, Susanne; Gossler, Achim; Fruttiger, Marcus; Bixel, M. Gabriele; Adams, Ralf H.
Researchers of the MPI for Molecular Biomedicine have discovered a novel molecular switch that can promote or block the growth of new blood vessels. This control mechanism involves the balance between two cell surface proteins with opposing functional roles, which decide whether new vascular sprouts and branch points will be formed. These results could open up new avenues for the treatment of vascular disease and cancer. more
Remote control of neural cells by light by means of the light-gated cation channel Channelrhodopsin2 (ChR2) and of the light-driven Cl- pump Halorhodopsin (NphR) fulfils a long lasting desire of neurobiologists. With this method neurons in culture as well as in the brain of living animals can be activated or inactivated at different wavelengths of the exciting light in a non invasive, electrode free manner with high temporal and even more important with an up to now unknown spatial resolution. This new technique has set the basis for the fast developing field of optogenetics. more
The properties of the retinal photoreceptors determine the information that the visual system receives for further processing. All mammals have rod photoreceptors for low-light and night vision, and cone photoreceptors for daylight and colour vision. However, this basic blueprint is rather flexible and shows species-specific adaptations to different visual needs, e. g. differences in colour vision, ultraviolet vision in some species, and colour blindness in others. The rod nuclei of nocturnal mammals act as light-collecting lenses for improved light transmission. more
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