Yearbook 2004

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Pietro Cavallini, the most important painter of the Middle Ages in Rome, undertook around 1300 the task of decorating the nave of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere with an expansive cycle of frescoes. By applying the frescoes to the walls of the structure which was built some 500 years earlier, a remarkable ensemble was created. Only about ten percent of the original painted decoration has survived because of the complete refurbishing of the church in later centuries; it is no longer visible from the nave. A tachymeter was used to record the still existing fragments of these frescoes on the Carolingian walls. In addition it was possible to reconstruct the highly developed decorative system of the workshop of Cavallini for the first time. more
The aim of our group is to understand the function and regulation of the transcription factors p53 and c-MYC, as well as the processes and genes which they regulate. c-MYC and p53 are genes which are altered in more than 50% of all cancers. The tumorsuppressor gene product p53 is activated after DNA damage and induces genes, as 14-3-3sigma, which mediate cell cycle inhibition. p53 is an integral part of the program of cellular senescence. In contrast, activation of the c-MYC oncogene leads to immortalization. How this function of c-MYC is achieved is a focus of our studies. In addition, we are identifying and characterizing genetic and epigenetic alterations which contribute to prostate cancer and malignant melanoma. For these projects we are using novel proteomic and genomic approaches. more
Our department is involved in the development and application of new microscopical methods. The automated cryo-electron tomography images ice-embedded macromolecular complexes, viruses, prokaryotes, and eukaryotic cells in a native state and yields 3D-reconstructions at molecular resolution. The technique offers the perspective to analyse the interactions of macromolecular complexes in individual cells in a near-to-live state. Infrared near-field microscopy enables high-resolution topographic imaging of, e.g., organic materials or single viruses together with simultaneous recording of local infrared absorption. more

New approaches to paleoclimate

Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Gleixner, Gerd; Sachse, Dirk; Radke, Jens; Werner, Martin
The global climate system and its anthropogenic influences are key issues of earth system science. Currently new components, like terrestrial vegetation or marine biosphere are added to earth system models to improve climate predictions. Reconstructions of the palaeoclimate are essential to evaluate the model simulations and estimate the quality of the model predictions. Most promising are reconstructions of the terrestrial climate, as continental climate variability is much larger than marine variability. Unfortunately, in terrestrial records often suitable climate proxies are missing. Here we investigate if aquatic and terrestrial biomarkers, e.g. chemical fossils, from the terrestrial record can be used for direct climate reconstruction. Results of this project suggest that compound specific hydrogen isotope ratios of alkanes are emerging as a new palaeoclimate proxy. more
In order to fight infections, leukocytes need to access microbes in tissues by extravasating from the flowing blood. This process that initiates inflammation and keeps it alive is controled by endothelial cells that form the interphase between blood and tissue. Whereas the mechanism of capturing leukocytes to the blood vessel wall at sites of inflammation is rather well understood, very little is known about how leukocytes actually overcome the blood vessel wall (diapedesis). It is considered as likely, although still controversially discussed by some, that leukocytes move into tissue by penetrating through the junctions of endothelial cells. One of the major goals of research of the department Vascular Cell Biology at the MPI for Molecular Biomedicine is to identify and understand the molecular mechanisms that allow paracellular diapedesis. more
The one-carbon (C1) carrier tetrahydromethanopterin (H4MPT), that non-covalently binds as cofactor to proteins, became more and more important in the last years, as it was discovered in several phylogenetically distinct microorganisms where it plays a pronounced role in the C1 metabolism. Interestingly, its structure is highly similar to that of tetrahydrofolate (H4F), the most universal C1 carrier in biochemistry, but most likely H4MPT and H4F were separately developed within a convergent evolutionary process. The mode how H4MPT binds to enzymes was recently established on a structural level for two systems that will be introduced. more
The cerebral cortex of mammals consists of two main types of nerve cells: excitatory projection neurons and inhibitory interneurons. The excitatory or inhibitory action is mainly determined by the released transmitter glutamate or γ-amino-butyric acid (GABA). Transmitter release takes place at synapses, the communication sites between nerve cells. The balanced interplay of excitation and inhibition allows for the computational power of the cerebral cortex. A central element of neuronal signal processing is the regulation of transmission strength at synapses. The independent research group “Synaptic regulation and function” studies regulatory mechanisms at glutamatergic synapses with two focal points: the role of electrical signaling at presynaptic nerve endings for transmitter release and long-term plasticity of glutamatergic excitation of inhibitory interneurons. These questions are addressed by use of the patch-clamp technique in brain slices of rodents. more
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