Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics

Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics

Viruses, bacteria and other parasites pose a permanent threat to the survival of organisms. Most living creatures therefore have ingenious defence strategies in place with which to fight such invaders. The scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics focus on the development and functioning of such strategies. They examine how the immune system emerged in the course of evolution and how it develops from the embryo to the adult organism. They also analyse genes and molecules which are important for a functioning immune system. For example, they look into the factors controlling the maturation of immune cells and how chemical changes in the genetic substance DNA influence the immune defence. In addition to immunobiology, another research focus was established at the Institute in 2007: epigenetics. This science focuses on the inheritance of characteristics that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. This new research focus is expected to lead to a better understanding of diseases and cancers that cannot be defined in strictly genetic terms.

Contact

Stübeweg 51
79108 Freiburg
Phone: +49 761 5108-0
Fax: +49 761 5108-220

PhD opportunities

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

IMPRS for Immunobiology, Epigentics and Metabolism

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

Double success

Asifa Akhtar and Volker Springel are honoured with the 2021 Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation

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A gel for dosage compensation

A gel for dosage compensation

November 18, 2020

The single X chromosome of male fruit flies can be just as active as the two X chromosomes of females thanks to two sticky molecules

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Repetitive elements trigger RIG-I-like receptors to enhance hematopoietic stem cell formation

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The line of succession

An unusual mechanism of robustness in charge of brain mRNAs

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Innate lymphoid cells regenerate within lung

Researchers generate a cell atlas of lung innate lymphoid cells

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In the mid-1970s, Georges Köhler, later Director at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology in Freiburg, succeeded in fusing together a short-lived immune cell and a rapidly dividing cancer cell. The result was an immortal cell chimera with the ability to produce identical (“monoclonal”) antibodies, ushering in a revolution in biology and medical science. In 1984, Köhler was awarded the Nobel Prize along with César Milstein and Niels Kaj Jerne. The researcher, who died young, would have celebrated his 70th birthday this year.

Knowledge changes constantly as research probes the validity of existing knowledge and converts ignorance into new knowledge. Research may also create new ignorance by discovering entirely novel territories whose very existence we had not imagined. Our author analyzes the conditions most conducive to drawing back the curtains.

Research into epigenetics is a rapidly growing field. A recent conference at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology in Freiburg shed light on the reasons.

Two Bioinformaticians (m/f/d)

Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Freiburg December 22, 2020

Hematopoietic stem cells - why vitamin A needs to protect them from activation

2019 Schönberger, Katharina; Obier, Nadine; Pavlovich, Polina; Cabezas-Wallscheid, Nina

Developmental Biology Infection Biology Medicine

Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are essential for the lifelong production of blood cells. Our research demonstrated that specific molecular signals, like Vitamin A, keep HSCs in a sleep-like, dormant state protecting them from exhaustion and maintaining their long-term differentiation potential. As a reaction to stress, such as blood loss or infections, dormant HSCs are activated in order to regenerate the blood system in a quick manner. We are investigating the mechanisms responsible for the resting state to develop new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of blood-related diseases.

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Inheritance beyond DNA: intergenerational epigenetic inheritance

2017 Zenk, Fides; Iovino, Nicola

Evolutionary Biology Genetics

The genetic information for building an organism is transmitted from parents to offspring through gametes. Although it has long been thought that the DNA blueprint solely is encoded in our genes, increasing evidence shows that stress-induced changes in the chromatin can also be inherited through gametes affecting gene regulation across generations. Our recent research shows that an epigenetic modification, H3K27me3, is maternally inherited and controls gene expression during early embryogenesis. Future work will address the mechanisms underlying intergenerational epigenetic inheritance.

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Pebbles in the mosaic: Which cells shape our organs and where do they come from?

2016 Grün, Dominic

Developmental Biology Immunobiology

Every organ in our body is composed of a multitude of single cells. Key to understanding the function of an organ is the knowledge of all the distinct cell types with their respective function plus their developmental pathways, with a so-called stem cell as a common starting point. Innovative novel molecular biology methods now permit the simultaneous quantification of thousands of molecules across single cells. This reveals a fingerprint of a cell, permitting to discriminate cell types of different function and to infer developmental pathways.

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In response to pathogens, immune cells activate a cellular program to eliminate harmful, infectious organisms and ensure our health. To mount a functional immune response, most immune cells require the reprogramming of their metabolic pathways. The scientists aim at gaining novel insight into how specific cellular compartments, so-called organelles, regulate such metabolic transitions. Of particular interest is hereby not only the function of individual organelles but also how inter-organellar communication drives metabolic immune cell programs and enables the fight against infections.

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Evolution of vertebrate immune systems

2014 Swann, Jeremy; Boehm, Thomas

Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Immunobiology Infection Biology Medicine

All living beings possess immune systems to defend themselves against parasites and pathogens, which requires their ability to distinguish self from nonself. Scientists examine the evolution and function of vertebrate immune systems in order to determine design principles and any species-specific peculiarities. Furthermore, the scientists aim at reconstructing the immune functions of extinct species. With this knowledge, attempts are being made to generate artificial immune facilities for therapeutic purposes.

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