Yearbook 2013

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The German Warburg-Kreis art historians’ language had been transformed due to their forced exile in English-speaking countries. How has the study of visual arts been influenced by languages rooted in different cultural traditions? Research focuses on the way Aby Warburg’s approach altered in the works of his first intellectual heirs. more
When chromosomes mis-segregate during cell division, cells lose their balance. The resulting cells are aneuploid, they contain fewer or more chromosomes than usual. Aneuploidy is generally harmful for the cell and characteristic for pathological conditions such as Down syndrome or cancer. Scientists are currently investigating why aneuploidy is so harmful. Presumably, an imbalance of proteins present in aneuploid cells plays an important role in the process. Nevertheless, many questions regarding the origin of aneuploidy and its consequences still remain unanswered. more

Global plant traits – a biodiversity database for Earth system sciences

Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Kattge, Jens; Wirth, Christian (Max-Planck Fellow, Universität Leipzig)
The traits of living organisms define their interaction with the environment and are an essential basis of ecological research. At the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry the TRY initiative has united and consolidated worldwide collections of plant traits in a global database and makes them available for further research. The improved usage of plant trait data is expected to promote a paradigm shift from species- to trait-based ecology. Moreover, it facilitates accounting for biodiversity aspects in Earth system sciences. more

Climatic extreme events - do they affect the global carbon cycle?

Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Mahecha, Miguel D.1; Zscheischler, Jakob1,2; Frank, Dorothea1; Reichstein, Markus1
The consequences of climate extremes on the carbon cycle of land ecosystems are not yet fully understood. However, it is becoming apparent that climate extremes tend to trigger a disproportionately high release of carbon dioxide (CO2). Current research in the department “Biogeochemical Integration” at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry aims at estimating the relevance of this phenomenon at global scales. more
Our heart pumps blood through an interconnected network of tubules to all parts of our body. This is important for the optimal availability of oxygen to every organ. How does the vasculature ensure the optimal connectivity between blood vessels? Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine show that differences in blood flow can control the proper sprouting and pruning of blood vessels. These discoveries could provide answers to the question why in certain disease settings, blood is not delivered efficiently. more
Planarians are known as masters of regeneration: they can re-build any part of their body after amputation. This ability relies on a large amount of pluripotent stem cells. To further investigate the mechanisms of how planarians maintain their stem cell pool over generations, scientists have now established a method for analyzing the composition of planarian stem cells and the turnover of their proteins. They discovered a protein that is not only required for the maintenance of the stem cell pool in planarians, but which might also be active in the pluripotent stem cells of mammals. more

Maternal genes can contribute to the ageing of a child

Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing Ross, Jaime M.; Stewart, James B.; Hagström, Erik; Brené, Stefan; Mourier, Arnaud; Coppotelli, Giuseppe; Freyer, Christoph; Lagouge, Marie; Hoffer, Barry J.; Olson, Lars; Winnen, Brit; Larsson, Nils-Göran
There are many causes for ageing. Different types of damage to our cells determine the ageing process and influence the functionality of our organs. Of special significance are damages to the "power stations" of the cells, the mitochondria. Mutations in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) lead to deterioration of the cellular energy production. Now, the researchers presenting this study have shown that the ageing process is attributable not only to the accumulation of mtDNA damage during a person's lifetime, but also to their maternally inherited mtDNA. more

Anti-ageing hormone receptors

Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing Heestand, Bree N.; Shen, Yidong; Liu, Wei; Magner, Daniel B.; Storm, Nadia; Meharg, Caroline; Habermann, Bianca; Wollam, Joshua; Hoppe, Caroline; Li, Dongling; Latza, Christian; Rottiers, Veerle; Hutter, Harald; Winnen, Brit; Antebi, Adam
A reduced caloric intake increases life expectancy in many species. But how diet prolongs the lives of model organisms such as fruit flies and roundworms has remained a mystery until recently. Scientists at the institute discovered that hormone receptors are one of the links between nutrition and life expectancy in roundworms. It may be possible that related receptors are also responsible for regulating life expectancy in human beings. more
The Department elucidates the structure and function of membrane proteins as well as macromolecular protein complexes by using electron microscopy, x-ray crystallography, biochemical and biophysical methods. It consists of a group lead by director Werner Kühlbrandt and project groups operated by Janet Vonck and Özkan Yildiz. Thomas Meier and Daniel Rhinow run two independent research groups. Christine Ziegler, now appointed as professor at the University of Regensburg, is still associated with the Department. Here, we present current data and results from all over the Department’s research. more
The brain is the most complex system we know. At the MPI for Brain Research two groups were appointed in 2013 that use complementary approaches to address the fundamental functions of neuronal circuits: Tatjana Tchumatchenko’s group uses theoretical approaches to understand information encoding in neuronal circuits. The Laboratory of Johannes Letzkus takes the experimental approach and employs 2-photon microscopy and optogenetic methods to understand which activity patterns occur in neocortical circuits during behavior, and how these activity patterns in turn guide the animal’s behavior. more
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