Yearbook 2008

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Plants make a diverse array of chemicals in order to mediate the many interactions they have with their environment. To increase the diversity of these compounds, core structures are modified by certain families of enzymes. One of the most important modifications is the formation of esters, catalyzed by acyltransferases. We have used modern techniques to characterize the genes, enzymes, and products of a family of plant acyltransferases known as the BAHD family. The sequenced genome of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana presents the opportunity to study a number of BAHD members. more

Living Chemical Plants: Chemical Defense in Leaf Beetle Larvae

Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology Burse, Antje; Frick, Sindy; Discher, Sabrina; Tolzin-Banasch, Karla; Strauß, Anja; Kirsch, Roy; Boland, Wilhelm
In response to herbivorous insects plants produce a variety of natural compounds. Many beetle species developed sophisticated strategies to deal with these substances allowing colonization of habitats non attractive for other organisms. Frequently the plant derived compounds are used by the herbivores for their own interaction with the environment. Studying such detoxification strategies is one of the important topics in chemical ecology. They manipulate not only the evolution of beetles and plants but also of other species living in an ecosystem. more
In modern materials design there is an increasing demand for powerful computational tools that allow an accurate prediction of materials properties. The free energy of individual crystal structures serves as a key quantity in this context. The present paper discusses the capabilities of modern quantum-mechanical simulation methods in determining these energies. Since it is further demonstrated that even complicated phase transformation sequences can be predicted, these methods open new perspectives for the development and optimization of innovative, tailored materials. more

Structure Evolution and Corrosion: Employing Synchrotron Light for In-Situ X-Ray Diffraction

Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH Renner, Frank Uwe; Rohwerder, Michael; Borissov, Dimitar; Pareek, Aparna; Ankah, Genesis; Vogel, Dirk
Synchrotron radiation developed in the last decades to be an important tool for materials science. Its capability to resolve atomic-scale structures even of low-dimensional objects is very beneficial for corrosion science. Also the possibility of in-situ experiments is an advantage. With recent results on the dealloying of a binary noble metal alloy and Zn electrodeposition from ionic liquids, two examples are given. more
We present a relatively simple inorganic system of two co-crystallized synthetic iron complexes with remarkably complex electronic structures, owing to the large number of possible redox states at the metal centers as well as at the redox-active ligands. For the first time an unprecedented complex reversible phase transition at 235 K is observed. With this model the exploration of complex processes, which may happen in similar ways in biological systems, is demonstrated by combined experimental techniques. more
Systematic studies to detect the molecular basis of evolutionary adaptations have only recently become possible. Scientists at the MPI for Evolutionary Biology focus on natural populations of the house mouse (Mus musculus). This involves genome based searches for signatures of recent adaptations. The first results indicate that such signatures occur much more often than it was considered possible so far. This opens up the option to devise experiments that will eventually allow to study the evolution of mouse populations in real time. more
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