Yearbook 2011

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A research project at the Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max Planck Institute for Art History, Rome) studies the interactions among figures, space and beholder. The working term spazio figurato denotes spaces designed to house an encounter with figures specifically created to be placed within them. Focusing on medieval spazi figurati, the project aims to understand how these interactions have changed over time and how these spaces are perceived. more
Much in the same way as we use shredders to destroy documents that are no longer useful or that contain potentially damaging information, cells use molecular machines to degrade unwanted or defective macromolecules. A key player in the degradation of RNAs is the exosome complex. Our work has revealed how the exosome binds and shreds RNAs by a channeling mechanism that is largely conserved in all kingdoms of life and that parallels the mechanism used by the proteasome to degrade polypeptides. more
Our bodies are constantly under attack by hostile microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses. Immune cells can identify foreign microbial components through a host of cell surface receptors. These receptors relay signals to the nucleus, where transcription factors activate the expression of genes whose protein products help fight the invaders. Misguidance of immune mechanisms can result in autoimmunity and leukemias or lymphomas. Researchers employ genetic mouse models to understand how signal transduction orchestrates immune responses and how its deregulation causes disease. more
Soils are the largest terrestrial store of carbon and one of the most important natural sources of CO2 in the atmosphere. The process of soil organic matter decomposition helps determine soil fertility, and provides important sources and sinks of non CO2 greenhouse gases that influence climate change. The Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry investigates the sensitivity of soil carbon fluxes to environmental changes and how the interactions among vegetation, climate, soil organisms and soil properties determine soil carbon storage. more

How leukocytes overcome the blood vessel wall

Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine Schulte, Dörte; Broermann, Andre; Nottebaum, Astrid; Kiefer, Friedemann, Butz, Stefan; Vestweber, Dietmar
Researchers at the MPI for Molecular Biomedicine could define one of two possible routes as the major pathway for leukocytes that leave the blood system and enter into inflamed tissue. In addition, they could identify a switch that allows to open the passage through the blood vessel wall. These results could lead to the development of novel therapeutics to treat inflammation. more

Insights into the nanoworld of mitochondria and the organisation of their genome

Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing Kukat, Christian; Wurm, Christian A.; Spåhr, Henrik; Falkenberg, Maria; Larsson, Nils-Göran; Jakobs, Stefan
Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cells. They produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a “currency of energy” which is needed in all tissues. Damaged mitochondria or complexes that are producing the energy are known to be involved in different diseases and ageing symptoms. The mitochondrial genome is packed with additional factors in organisational units, the nucleoids. The presented data provide fundamental insights into the structure of nucleoids which in future might help to find new ways of handling mitochondrially inherited diseases. more
The new field of optogenetics describes mainly the use of the light-gated ion channel, Channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2) and of the light-driven Cl-pump Halorhodopsin (NphR) for stimulation and silencing of neurons simply by light in cultured cells as well as in brains of living animals. In order to increase the possibilities of application we have focused our research to develop new and improved tools. more
Neuroblastoma (NB) is a childhood tumor that arises from the sympathoadrenal lineage. The mechanisms that direct sympathetic neuron generation are fundamentally different from the control of neurogenesis in other parts of the nervous system and involve the transcription factor Phox2b and the tyrosine kinase receptor Alk. Mutations in Phox2b and Alk predispose to NB in familiar forms of this disease. The expression of mutant Phox2b and Alk in embryonic sympathetic ganglion cells identified signaling pathways that result in aberrant growth and may contribute to NB predisposition. more
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