Yearbook 2012

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The research project of the Beijing Tsinghua Tongheng Urban Planning & Design Institute THUPDI (Tsinghua University Beijing) and the Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max Planck Institute for Art History, Rome) is devoted to the Western Buildings in the Old Summer Palace Yuanmingyuan in Beijing. The project investigates the interaction between Western architectural forms and Chinese concepts of architecture. It examines how Chinese builders adapted indigenous and imported construction methods to realise the Western palaces and how this intercultural moment was received. more
Proteins are synthesized as chains of amino acids. In order to fulfill a wide variety of biological functions, these chains must fold into specific three-dimensional patterns. This process of protein folding is mediated in our cells by molecular chaperones, helper molecules which act to prevent the clumping of faulty protein chains into aggregates. The formation of aggregates is the cause of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Understanding the role of molecular chaperones will help in developing treatments for these and other diseases. more
Flying insects face the challenge to be up in the air. To stay airborne they need to oscillate their wings at frequencies up to 1000 times per second. These fast oscillations are powered by specialized flight muscles that contain a particular fibrillar organisation of their contractile apparatus and hence differ from all other muscles. In vinegar flies (Drosophila) the researchers identified a developmental switch gene, spalt, which induces the formation of these specialised flight muscles. Spalt mutants are flightless: their flight muscles have lost all their special properties. more
The Earth works like a power plant generating energy out of its planetary drivers. This energy maintains the winds in the atmosphere, ocean currents, and global biogeochemical cycles such as the hydrological cycle. The laws of thermodynamics set the limits to the rates by which these forms of energy are generated and thereby limit the forms of energy that could potentially be used as renewable energy. The global estimate shows that - except for solar and wind power - the natural generation rates of renewable energy are rather small and in the order of the human energy consumption. more
Leukocyte recruitment into tissue forms the basis of immune surveillance and proceeds in a cascade-like fashion. The first contact of leukocytes with the endothelium is mediated by selectins and their counter receptors, followed by rolling and integrin-mediated arrest. Rolling leukocytes collect different inflammatory signals that can activate signaling pathways leading to leukocyte adhesion and transmigration. Several pathways exist that ensure rapid and efficient integrin activation on leukocytes. On the other hand, mechanisms that counteract and balance integrin activation also exist. more

Shedding light on heredity processes of mitochondrial mutations

Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing Freyer, Christoph; Cree, Lynsey M.; Mourier, Arnaud; Stewart, James B.; Koolmeister, Camilla; Milenkovic, Dusanka; Wai, Timothy; Hagström, Erik; Chatzidaki, Emmanouella E.; Wiesner, Rudolph; Samuels, David C.; Larsson, Nils-Göran; Chinnery, Patrick F.
Malfunctioning mitochondria can lead to metabolic disorders in the person affected, since mutations in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can cause muscle weakness, neurodegenerative diseases, cardiac disorders as well as diabetes, and are also linked to the ageing process. In the study presented here, researchers of the Department for Mitochondrial Biology show that intra-familiar differences in the degree of mutation of the mitochondrial genes are largely established before the mother herself is born. more
All animals develop through successive life stages and have life spans that are determined by genes and environment, yet how the molecular circuitry underlying life stage structure relates to longevity is poorly understood. We show that the same molecular switch used for Caenorhabditis elegans developmental timing is co-opted to regulate adult longevity in response to signals from the reproductive system. These studies reveal that metazoan life span is coupled to the gonads through elements of a developmental clock. more
Isoprenoids are involved in vital processes of all organisms. Their biosynthesis proceeds via two C5-building blocks, which are produced dependent on the organism either by the mevalonate- or the desoxyxylose (DOXP) pathway. The DOXP pathway is used by various human pathogens but not by man and therefore provides an attractive target for anti-infectious agents, e.g., against malaria and tuberculosis. more
The change of single communication sites between nerve cells, independent of neighboring sites, is believed to be a cellular basis of learning and memory. An elegant explanation how neurons accomplish this arose from the detection that specific proteins might be synthesized close to contact points. With a combination of sensitive methods MPIH investigators now showed that the diversity of protein building plans in neuronal processes is much higher than anticipated – a drastic change in the picture of the neuronal world. more
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