Yearbook 2008

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The research group of Wolfgang Zachariae shows that in yeast, the Dbf4-dependent Cdc7 kinase (DDK) provides a link between premeiotic S phase and the segregation of homologous chromosomes in meiosis I. Independently from its established role in initiating DNA replication, DDK promotes double-strand break formation, the first step of recombination, and the recruitment of the monopolin complex to kinetochores, which is essential for monopolar attachment of sister kinetochores. Thus, activation of DDK both initiates DNA replication and commits meiotic cells to reductional chromosome segregation in meiosis I. more
In all cells of our bodies DNA is found complexed with basic proteins, the so-called histones. These proteins not only organize and protect the genetic information, but are also crucially involved in all biological processes involving DNA. In this aspect, a large number of different post-translational histone modifications direct the availability and accessibility of the DNA. While many histone modifications could be linked to different biological phenomena and signal transduction pathways, the molecular working mechanisms of most histone modifications are still not understood. more
The cell nucleus is enclosed by the nuclear envelope, lacks protein synthesis and therefore imports each and every protein from the cytosol. Conversely, the nucleus supplies the cytoplasm with nuclear products, such as ribosomes, tRNAs and mRNAs. The permeability barrier of nuclear pore complexes controls all this exchange. This permeability barrier is an "intelligent" hydrogel with truly remarkable properties. It excludes inert macromolecules, but permits an up to 20 000-fold faster entry of cargoes, when these are bound to appropriate nuclear transport receptors. more
Cosmic dust is the carrier of a variety of astrophysical information. With mass spectrometric methods it is possible to study cosmic dust in the laboratory. Stardust, which is found in small quantities in meteorites and comets, provides detailed insights into the physics of the parent stars and in physical and chemical processes in the interstellar medium. Studies of cometary dust, which was recently collected and returned to Earth with the “Stardust” space probe, make it possible to reconstruct important aspects of the history of Solar System formation. more
Over most of the Earth´s surface the atmosphere is in direct contact with the ocean. Therefore, gas exchange at this interface has an enormous potential to influence global atmospheric chemistry. As part of the European project “OOMPH” researchers from the MPI for Chemistry crossed the “roaring forties” of the South Atlantic on board a research vessel and encountered a giant phytoplankton bloom which forms there every summer. An investigation of such pristine regions gives important clues about how the atmosphere functions in the absence of man-made pollution. more
Language is a basic property of human beings that distinguishes them from any other being we know. Children seem to effortlessly acquire this complex system of symbols and meanings. It is still an open question how children’s brains learn to administer the multifaceted tasks involved in language comprehension. Answers to this question are given by imaging methods that allow us to observe the children’s brains during the processing of language. more
The capabilities of the brain are based on an interplay between functional segregation and functional integration of neuronal populations within complex networks. The anatomical basis of these networks can be reconstructed using diffusion weighted magnetic resonance imaging. The dynamic interaction between the neuronal populations is described by models of neural masses and fields. The integration of these techniques with functional measurements and neuropsychological experiments opens up new perspectives for the investigation of the mechanisms of the human mind. more
Competition authorities suspect that certain rebates may lead to monopolization. Economic models show that rebates do not necessarily have negative effects on competition. They may even increase welfare. In the Lab consumers reacted to rebates they were offered in a different way than the economic models would expect them to. How can competition law account for these findings? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods seek after an adequate solution. more
Modern X-ray diffraction techniques using microbeam radiation from synchrotron sources allow the imaging of the hierarchical structure of biological materials on different length scales. Moreover, in-situ X-ray diffraction provides the possibility to follow nanostructural changes of materials as a consequence of external influences such as mechanical deformation or humidity changes. This article presents a novel scientific instrument developed by the Max Planck Society at the BESSY storage ring in Berlin, which permits such experiments to be conducted with high resolution. more
The sequence of a protein determines, in which three-dimensional structure it folds. The structure in turn enables the biological function of the protein. During function, many proteins slightly change and adapt their three-dimensional structures. These structural changes, as well as the structure formation during folding, cannot be observed directly in experiments. However, combined with theoretical modeling, mutations of a protein provide indirect access to these dynamic processes. more
How do we recognize objects? How do we interpret facial expressions? Can we teach computers to see and understand? In this article, we present several research areas of the department "Human Perception, Cognition and Action" of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. The department employs methods from computer vision, computer graphics, and psychophysics in order to understand fundamental processes in perception and cognition. more
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