Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry

Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry

Proteins are the molecular building blocks and engines of the cell, and are involved in practically all life processes. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry investigate the structure of these proteins and how they function – from individual molecules through to complex organisms. They make use of the latest biochemical, imaging and genetic engineering methods to discover the structure of proteins, their properties and the tasks they perform in the human body. Further important areas of research are signal processing and transmission, the regulation of protein breakdown and how cancer evolves. The researchers also want to find out what the actual protein composition of the cell looks like and how complete biological systems function.


Am Klopferspitz 18
82152 Martinsried
Phone: +49 89 8578-1
Fax: +49 89 8578-3777

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS for Molecular Life Sciences: From Biological Structures to Neural Circuits

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Molecular Structural Biology


Department Structural Cell Biology


Department Proteomics and Signal Transduction


Department Molecular Machines and Signaling


Department Cellular and Molecular Biophysics

Structure of serotonin receptor in presence of lipids resolved

The lipid bilayer stabilises the receptor in a more tightly packed state

Measuring the tRNA world

Researchers have developed a method to quantify transfer RNAs

Bavaria builds on research

Support for the new Max Planck life science campus in Martinsried and the initiative for quantum computing and quantum technologies

New therapeutic approach against leukemia

Using an RNA molecule complex, researchers can prevent retention of cancer stem cell in their tumor supporting niche

The relationship of proteins

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry have for the first time uncovered the proteome of 100 organisms from all domains of life


Researcher or entrepreneur – thanks to Axel Ullrich, this is no longer a contradiction for the Max Planck Society: he‘s both. This is proven by countless publications and honors, two cutting-edge cancer drugs, six start-up companies and over 100 patents. Ullrich, a former Director of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried has been instrumental in promoting the combination of basic and applied research at the Max Planck Society.

In the Bible, the universe was created step by step: first light, then water and land, and finally the terrestrial animals and humankind. However, from a scientific viewpoint, it seems that the building blocks of life might not have come into being successively, but rather at the same time – at least, this is what Hannes Mutschler of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry believes. He and his colleagues in Martinsried, near Munich, are researching the role played by RNA molecules in the emergence of life.

Some time around four billion years ago, life started to become encapsulated. The first cells emerged – protected spaces that facilitated the bonding of complex molecules. Petra Schwille from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried and Rumiana Dimova from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam are exploring the boundaries of cellular life. The two researchers are investigating the dynamics of biomembranes.

Elena Conti used to entertain the notion of becoming an architect. The fact that she decided to study chemistry in the end detracted nothing from her passion for the subject. As Director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, she studies the architecture of molecular machines in the cell – and is fascinated by the sophisticated structures in miniature.

The discovery of a visual pigment in the cell membrane of an archaebacterium in the early 1970s is owed solely to a researcher’s curiosity: For three years, the scientific community wouldn’t believe Dieter Oesterhelt. Forty years after his pioneering work at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, bacteriorhodopsin and channelrhodopsin, which stems from a single-celled green alga, are gaining ground as new tools in neurobiology.

In the course of evolution, cells have acquired a lot of redundancy. Many processes are probably more complicated than they need to be. Petra Schwille from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried wants to find out what constitutes the bare essentials of a cell. By concentrating on what’s important, the biophysicist also manages to reconcile her career and family life.

No job offers available

Intercellular contacts - the self-inhibitory mechanism of Talin

2019 Dedden, Dirk; Schumacher, Stephanie; Kelley, Charlotte F.; Zacharias, Martin; Biertümpfel, Christian; Fässler, Reinhard; Mizuno, Naoko

Cell Biology Structural Biology

Cells contact other cells via precise docking points. Cell migration and immune reactions require a finely tuned attachment and detachment process. Therefore, the contact sites consist of a whole machinery of proteins, in which talin plays a central role. Using cryo-electron microscopy, we were able to show how talin can assume an inactive spherical shape and is thus inaccessible to contact other proteins. These results help to understand the adhesion mechanism and also dysfunctions in disease processes.


The ability of cells to sense and respond to mechanical signals is central to numerous biological processes. How mechanical signals are processed in cells has remained unclear, because techniques to detect the extremely small molecular forces in cells were missing. We therefore developed a technology that allows quantification of intracellular forces that are as low as a billionth of a newton. First applications reveal fascinating insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying cellular mechanobiology.


Oxeiptosis – a ROS induced caspase-independent apoptosis-like cell death pathway

2017 Holze, Cathleen; Benda, Christian; Hubel, Philipp; Pennemann, Friederike L.; Pichlmair, Andreas

Cell Biology Genetics Immunobiology Infection Biology

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are commonly generated during virus infections, but their significance is only partially understood. We identified a cell death pathway, oxeiptosis, regulating cell death and cell survival after exposure to ROS. Manipulation of oxeiptosis impairs ROS - and virus - induced cell death in vitro and causes lung inflammation and tissue injury in influenza A infected mice. Since ROS are commonly generated during physiologic and pathologic situations, we anticipate that oxeiptosis plays a prominent role in attenuating a wide range of diseases.


Regulation of the second division of meiosis

2016 Zachariae, Wolfgang

Cell Biology Genetics Structural Biology

Haploid gametes are produced in meiosis, a special form of cell division where DNA replication is followed by two rounds of chromosome segregation and gametogenesis. Homologous chromosomes segregate in meiosis I, whereas chromatids disjoin in meiosis II. Scientists of the research group Chromosome Biology now revealed how the conserved Hrr25 kinase of yeast coordinates production and packaging into gametes of the single-copy genome in meiosis II.


Getting chromosomes into shape using rings and sticks

2016 Gruber, Stephan

Cell Biology Genetics Structural Biology

Faithful distribution of the genetic material during cell division relies on the folding of DNA into discrete and compact bodies called chromatids. SMC protein complexes have evolved to deal with the tangly nature of long DNA molecules. They act as molecular clamps that bring together selected DNA segments. The researchers determined the architecture of the ancestral SMC complex and elucidated its dynamic localization on the bacterial chromosome. The results indicate that SMC rings are not merely DNA linkers but active machines, which step-by-step enlarge DNA loops to organize chromosomes.

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