Key Protein identified that regulated N-terminal acetylation in plants
22/6/22 Proteins are existential building blocks of life that also have numerous functions in plants. An average plant cell contains more than 20 billion protein molecules that maintain cellular metabolism and stabilise their structure. Researchers at the Centre for Organismal Studies in the research groups of Rüdiger Hell and Markus Wirtz recently shed light on a cellular mechanism that extends the life of plant proteins. They have now identified a key protein that regulates this mechanism, which is known as N-terminal acetylation. More information here
BMBF Funds Heidelberg Junior Research Group for 3D Bioprinting Project
21/3/22 Junior Professor Dr Daniela Duarte Campos has been awarded a substantial grant from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). She and her junior research group are investigating bioprinting for tissue and organ engineering at the Center for Molecular Biology (ZMBH) and at the “3D Matter Made to Order” Cluster of Excellence, a collaboration between Ruperto Carola and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Through the BMBF’s “NanoMatFutur” funding competition, her research project on three-dimensional “printing” of the human cornea has been awarded financial support of approximately 2.2 million euros. The long-term goal of the project is to circumvent risky transplantations and establish a conservative method of clinical treatment for irreversibly damaged corneas. More information here
Bacterial protein that senses and rescues "stalled" ribosomes discovered
14/3/22 As a molecular machine found in the cells of all organisms, the ribosome is responsible for making new proteins. It reads the blueprint for a certain protein on a messenger molecule – known as messenger RNA (mRNA) – and then converts this information into new proteins. For a number of reasons, this process can fail, leaving the ribosome stalled on the mRNA and bringing synthesis of the protein to a halt. An international research team led by scientists from the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (Prof. Claudio Joazeiro (left) and Dr. Stefan Pfeffer (right)) has now identified a bacterial protein called MutS2 that senses and rescues these stuck protein factories. The fact that the next ribosome on the mRNA chain collides with the stalled ribosome plays a key role. More information here
Molecular mechanisms that influence pain processing and sensitivity discovered
8/3/22 One epigenetic factor as well as one organic anion transporter (OAT1), whose function in the nervous system was hitherto unknown, contribute to the development of chronic pain. The underlying molecular mechanism was identified by a team of researchers led by Dr Daniela Mauceri at the Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences (IZN) of Heidelberg University. Using mouse models, the researchers demonstrated that the epigenetic factor, known as HDAC4, influences the expression of genes in neuronal cells involved in the processing of pain. The Heidelberg experiments also revealed that the transporter OAT1 regulates pain sensitivity in the spinal cord. The team hopes their findings will pave the way to new approaches for the treatment of chronic pain. More information here
Prof. Rüdiger Hell new dean of faculty
1/3/22 Starting the first of March 2022, Prof. Rüdiger Hell is the new dean of the Faculty for Biosciences.
Memorial procession on 21. February - Update
15/2/22 On Monday the 21. of February, exactly 4 weeks after the terrible tragedy in the Neuenheimer Feld, there will be a memorial procession. This is organised by the Fachschaft Biologie. It will start at 16:30 in the Uniplatz in the city center and will end in the botanical gardens. More info here
Protection from the molecular shredder
10/2/22 Plants are tied to one location and need to adjust to their environment, including adverse conditions. Adaptive responses include synthesising new proteins and breaking down those that are no longer needed. For this task, plants use a considerable amount of energy. Thus, regulation of protein turnover in the plant cell has to be appropriately thorough. Researchers at the Centre for Organismal Studies of our Faculty led by Dr Markus Wirtz and Prof. Dr Rüdiger Hell have now identified a cellular mechanism that stabilises proteins by preventing their breakdown. More information here.
Dear students, dear staff,
25/1/22 On Monday 24/1, two students of the faculty lost their lives and several others were injured in a terrible tragedy. The faculty mourns with those who lost a friend or family member and is stunned by the magnitude of what happened. We want to express our condolences to those who lost loved ones yesterday and to stand by those who had to go through these terrible experiences. Our thoughts are with everyone involved.
The Faculty of Biosciences
Plants as cold specialists from the ice age
21/12/21 As cold relics in an increasingly warming world, plants of the spoonweed group time and again quickly adapted to a changing climate during the Ice Ages of the last two million years. An international team of evolutionary biologists and botanists led by Prof. Dr Marcus Koch of Heidelberg University used genomic analyses to study what factors favour adaptation to extreme climatic conditions. The evolutionary history of the Brassicaceae family provides insights into how plants may be able to cope with climate change in the future. More information here.
Molecular switch for addiction behaviour discovered
15/12/21 A molecular switch influences addiction behaviour and determines how strong the response to addictive drugs is. A research team at Heidelberg University and the Sorbonne University in Paris (France) made the discovery in mice treated with cocaine. The researchers led by Prof. Dr Hilmar Bading (Heidelberg, image) and Prof. Dr Peter Vanhoutte (Paris) demonstrated that the protein Npas4 regulates the structure and function of nerve cells that control addiction behaviour in mice. If the quantity of Npas4 was reduced in an experiment, the animals’ response to cocaine was much weaker. More information here.
Visualising cell structures in three dimensions in mere minutes
8/12/21 Viral pathogens like the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus change the interior structure of the cells they infect. These changes occur at the level of individual cell components – the organelles – and can provide information on how viral diseases develop. Extremely powerful imaging techniques are needed to visualise them, but such methods are very data- and time-intensive. A German-American research team under the direction of Dr. Venera Weinhardt at the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS) recently optimised a special X-ray process – known as soft X-ray tomography – to deliver high-resolution three-dimensional images of entire cells and their molecular structure in just a few minutes. More information here.
Neurobiology Postdoc wins Ruprecht-Karls-Prize
28/10/21 Dr. Jing Yan, a postdoc in the Neurobiology group of the IZN has won the Ruprecht-Karls-Prize for his publication 'Coupling of NMDA receptors and TRPM4 guides discovery of unconventional neuroprotectants' in Science last year. The award ceremony will be on the 17th of December.
Faculty of Engineering Sciences starts
01/10/21 With the aim of pooling its expertise in the field of technology and engineering, and expanding its range of research and subjects in a field of competence that is developing dynamically, Heidelberg University has founded a new faculty – the Faculty of Engineering Sciences. The focus will not be on traditional technologies, however, but on innovative engineering approaches. Heidelberg engineering sciences range from molecular biotechnology to the engineering of molecular systems to computer engineering and medical technology. The IPMB with faculty members Prof. Gert Fricker, Prof. Dr. Andres Jäschke, Prof. Dr. Christian Klein, Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müllerm and Prof. Dr. Stefan Wölfl but also several other Faculty members, Prof. Dr. Frauke Gräter, Prof. Dr. Ursula Kummer, Prof. Dr. Robert Russell, and Prof. Dr. Rebecca Wade will be a part of this new faculty. More information here
Fish eyes from stem cells of bony fish
3/09/21 A research team from the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS) has demonstrated that complex retinal tissue can be cultured in a Petri dish from embryonic stem cells of bony fish. Until now, stem cells from mammals, including humans, have been used in organoid research. For the first time, researchers led by Prof. Dr Joachim Wittbrodt have demonstrated that stem cells from medaka and zebrafish can also form highly organised neural structures under controlled laboratory conditions. Among other things, the researchers expect to gain new insights into the basic mechanisms of retinal development. More information here.
Decoding genetic programs responsible for the development of the cerebellum
29/07/21 The mammalian cerebellum has long been associated almost exclusively with motor control, yet recent studies indicate that it also contributes to many higher brain functions. An international research team led by Prof. Dr Henrik Kaessmann from the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH) has now decoded the genetic programmes that control the development of cerebellar cell types before and after birth. The molecular biologists compared data from the mouse cerebellum with corresponding data from the opossum, revealing fundamental gene regulatory networks that must have already formed in the early stage of mammalian evolution more than 160 million years ago. The study was carried out in close collaboration with Prof. Dr Stefan Pfister of the Hopp Children’s Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ). More information here.
Medaka model developed to study glycosylation defects in vivo
23/06/21 A research team led by Prof. Joachim Wittbrodt and Dr. Thomas Thumberger developed a new genetic model in the japanese rice fish medaka, to study multisystemic phenotypes of hypo-N-glycosylation in vivo. Using CRISPR/Cas9, a gene involved in glycosylation (ALG2) was truncated to mimic an existing genotype from a human patient suffering from CDG (congenital disorder of glycosylation). This led to similar phenotypes which could be rescued by microinjection of full-length alg2 mRNA. More information here (link to paper).
Second round CRC 1324 approved
20/05/21 The research of CRC 1324 focuses on so-called Wnt proteins, which control central processes in embryonic development and cell differentiation as well as in tumorigenesis. These proteins arose very early in the evolution of animals and also play an important role in human diseases. After focusing in particular on mechanisms of Wnt signal transduction in the first funding period, the Heidelberg life science researchers will now turn their attention to transferring the gained knowledge into a spatial and temporal context during organ development and in the development of diseases. Prof. Holstein (image) was the spokesperson of the CRC in the first round, a role which in the second funding period will be taken over by Prof. Boutros from the Medical Faculty Mannheim. The DFG is funding CRC 1324 “Mechanisms and Functions of the Wnt Signaling Pathway” with approximately 11.5 million euros. More Information
Natural functions of APP protein family unravelled
20/05/21 While the APP protein is well-known for its key role in Alzheimer’s disease, its contribution to healthy brain function, by contrast, has remained largely unknown until now. Recently, an international research team, led by Prof. Dr Ulrike Müller from the IPMB, gained new insights on the physiological functions of the APP protein family by using a mouse model lacking APP. The absence of APP during brain development was shown to result in the malformation of important brain regions implicated in learning and memory. Consequently, these mice were severely impaired in their learning abilities and exhibited autistic-like behaviour. More Information
Corals that "spit" algae
05/05/21 Microalgae of the dinoflagellate group are known for their ability to survive in other animal cells. These tiny single-cell organisms have engaged in mutually beneficial relationships with corals since primeval times. By passing on critical nutrients to their hosts, dinoflagellates allow corals to thrive even in barren areas. A research team led by Prof. Guse from the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS) recently discovered that such symbioses within the cell essentially depend on the ability of the algae to suppress the immune system of their host cell and thereby avoid being “spit out” again. At the same time, the researchers found indications that this cellular immune response is an evolutionarily ancient immune mechanism that is more widespread than previously assumed. More Information
ERC Advanced Grant for Henrik Kaessmann
23/04/21 In the project “VerteBrain – The Ancestral Vertebrate Brain and its Cellular Diversification During Evolution” funded by the ERC Advanced Grant, Prof. Kaessmann will study the evolutionary origins of the vertebrate brain. It is the third grant that the European Research Council has awarded him for his research. The two previous projects focused on the evolution of gene expression in adult mammalian organs and the genetic control of organ development in mammals. “Now we will investigate the fundamental question of how the vertebrate brain and its structures originally arose,” he says. More Information
EU Consortium funding for a compact cell-imaging device
14/04/21 How do viral pathogens succeed in penetrating human cells? Which cellular mechanisms do they use to multiply efficiently and, in doing so, how do they change the structure of their host cell? These questions are the focus of a pan-European research project called “Compact Cell-Imaging Device” (CoCID), in which scientists from our Faculty (Dr. Weinhardt, Prof. Bartenschlager) are playing a major role. In order to advance research into viral diseases, the aim of the project is to develop a particularly suitable cell-imaging method – which has so far been of limited access to researchers – for extensive application in medical research. More Information
How ribosomal subunits are formed
18/03/21 Ribosomes are the protein factories of the cell. How they are assembled from subunits is a complicated and multi-layered process being investigated by a research team led by Prof. Dr Ed Hurt from the BZH. Together with colleagues from Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, the researchers have now described the role that a type of molecular “shredder” plays in this process. The research results were published in the journal “Molecular Cell”.
New rice plant variant discovered that largely neutralises arsenic
04/03/21 The agricultural cultivation of the staple food of rice harbours the risk of possible contamination with arsenic that can reach the grains following uptake by the roots. In their investigation of over 4,000 variants of rice, a Chinese-German research team under the direction of Prof. Hell and Dr. Wirtz from the COS discovered a plant variant that resists the toxin. Although the plants thrive in arsenic-contaminated fields, the grains contain far less arsenic than other rice plants. At the same time, this variant has an elevated content of the trace element selenium. More Information
Super-resolution RNA imaging in live cells
01/03/21 Researchers from group of Prof. Jaeschke at the IPMB and cooperation partners at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have devised a new fluorescence imaging method which enables live-cell RNA imaging with unprecedented resolution. The method is based on a novel molecular marker called Rhodamine-Binding Aptamer for Super-Resolution Imaging Techniques (RhoBAST). This RNA-based fluorescence marker is used in combination with the dye rhodamine. Due to their distinctive properties, marker and dye interact in a very specific way, which makes individual RNA molecules glow. They can then be made visible using single-molecule localisation microscopy (SMLM), a super-resolution imaging technique. More Information
Coronavirus gargling test developed at the ZMBH
22/02/21 Scientists at the ZMBH have developed a simple test to detect the coronavirus. This can also be used for approved on-campus events such as laboratory practicals or on-campus examinations which are strictly necessary for continuing or completing a degree course. This supports measures to prevent the virus and possible mutations from spreading, by detecting asymptomatic carriers of the virus as well as those who have not yet developed symptoms. The aim is to interrupt possible infection chains at an early stage. Teachers can order test kits for the students. The intention is for university staff, too, to be offered the opportunity of a test. More Information
Molecular Biotechnology Student wins DAAD prize
25/01/21 Elizaveta Chernova, a Croatian student of molecular biotechnology at our faculty, has been honoured with the DAAD Prize for international students for her academic achievement and social commitment. The prize, endowed with 1,000 euros, is awarded by Heidelberg University and financed by funds from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Prof. Dr Marc-Philippe Weller, Vice-Rector for International Affairs at Ruperto Carola, presented the award and congratulated the dedicated prize-winner. More Information
COS Scientist awarded funding from the Japan Science and Technology Agency
15/12/20 Postdoctoral scientist Dr Dongbo Shi will receive funding from the Japan Science and Technology Agency for his work on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that enable plants to grow. The funding totals up to 300,000 euros over a period of three years. Dr Shi conducts research at the Centre for Organismal Studies of Heidelberg University in the group of Prof. Thomas Greb. More Information
How proteins find their place in the cell
9/12/20 Over a quarter of all proteins in a cell are found in the membrane, where they perform vital functions. To fulfil these roles, membrane proteins must be reliably transported from their site of production in the cell to their destination and correctly inserted into the target membrane. Researchers from the Heidelberg University Biochemistry Center (BZH) in the group of Prof. Sinning have succeeded in determining the three-dimensional structure of a molecular machine responsible for the correct placement of an important membrane protein family – the so-called “tail-anchored” membrane proteins, or TA proteins for short. More information
Hannah Monyer recieves Lautenschläger research prize
9/12/20 Heidelberg neurobiologist Prof. Dr Hannah Monyer, an internationally renowned expert in the field of brain research, is being honoured with the 2020 Lautenschläger Research Prize. The prize is endowed with 250,000 euros. The award ceremony for Germany’s most highly endowed research prize from a private donor was originally scheduled for the beginning of December 2020 but because of pandemic restrictions has been rescheduled to 7 May 2021. More information
Chica and Heinz Schaller Research Awards
3/12/20 Neurobiologist Dr. Ana Oliveira and biochemist Dr. Steffan Pfeffer will receive the Chica and Heinz Schaller Research award for biomedical reseach on the 4th of December. This prize comes with a 100.000 Euro endowment to strengthen their research. Dr. Oliveira has been working on epigenetic mechanism in learning and memory and has an Emmy-Noether Research group at the IZN. Dr. Pfeffer is a groupleader at the ZMBH and studies the function of ribosomes and protein synthesis using cryo-EM. More Information (in German)
Analyzing plant cells with 3D images
30/11/20 A new image processing programme makes it possible to view and analyse plant cells in detail in 3D. Bioscientists and computer scientists at Heidelberg University helped to develop the open-source software called PlantSeg. It is based on methods of machine learning and can be used to study the process of morphogenesis – how the shape of plants develops – at the cellular level. The researchers from the group of Prof. Maizel hope to gain a better understanding of processes in developmental biology like speciation. The research results appeared in the journal eLife Sciences. More Info
3 scientific papers from the ZMBH simultaneously published in Nature
12/11/20 One paper from the Kaessmann group as well as two papers from the Bukau group were published on 11/11/20 in Nature. "'Transcriptome and translatome co-evolution in mammals", "Molecular dissection of amyloid disaggregation by human HSP70" and "HSP40 proteins use class-specific regulation to drive HSP70 functional diversity". More information about these publications below.
Groundbreaking new insights into the regulation and evolution of gene expression in mammalian organs
12/11/20 A large-scale study conducted by molecular biologists from the ZMBH around Prof. Dr. Henrik Kaessmann has yielded groundbreaking new insights into the evolution and regulation of gene expression in mammalian organs. The scientists investigated RNA synthesis and subsequent protein synthesis in the organs of humans and other representative mammals, and with the aid of sequencing technologies, they analysed more than 100 billion gene expression fragments from various organs. They were able to demonstrate that the finely tuned interplay of the two synthesis processes during evolution was crucial for shaping organ functions. The results were published in “Nature”. More Info
Mechanism of amyloid firbil disaggregation unravelled
12/11/20 In many neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, protein aggregates form in the brain and are assumed to contribute to neuronal cell death. Yet there exists a cellular defence mechanism that counteracts these aggregates, known as amyloid fibrils, and can even dissolve fibrils already formed. This defence mechanism is based on the activity of molecular chaperones, i.e. protein folding helpers, of the heat shock protein 70 family (Hsp70). Molecular biologists from the ZMBH investigated how the Hsp70 system disaggregates amyloid fibrils of the Parkinson-specific protein α-synuclein in a test tube. The research team led by Prof. Dr Bernd Bukau expects their research results to provide new insights into how Parkinson’s disease develops and what might be done to influence it. The results were published in two articles in the journal “Nature”. More Info
COS Scientist wins Ruprecht-Karls-Prize
05/11/20 Former COS Scientist Dr. Erika Tsingos (now Postdoc in Leiden) wins the Ruprecht-Karls-Prize for her work „Characterisation and computational modelling of retinal stem cells in medaka (Oryzias latipes)”. The award ceremony is postponed to 2021.
More information here
New class of highly effective inhibitors protects against neurodegeneration
12/10/20 Neurobiologists at our Faculty have discovered how a special receptor at neuronal junctions that normally activates a protective genetic programme can lead to nerve cell death when located outside synapses. Their fundamental findings on neurodegenerative processes simultaneously led the researchers at the Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences (IZN) to a completely new principle for therapeutic agents. In their experiments on mouse models, they discovered a new class of highly effective inhibitors for protecting nerve cells. As Prof. Dr Hilmar Bading points out, this novel class of drugs opens up – for the first time – perspectives to combat currently untreatable diseases of the nervous system. The results of this research were published in “Science”. More information can be found here.
Relationship of morphological variation and biological diversity in plants
29/09/20 Genome duplications play a major role in the development of forms and structures of plant organisms and their changes across long periods of evolution. Biologists from our faculty under the direction of Prof. Dr Marcus Koch made this discovery in their research of the Brassicaceae family. To determine the scope of the different variations over 30 million years, they analysed all 4,000 species of this plant family and investigated at the genus level their morphological diversity with respect to all their characteristic traits. The results of this research were published in the journal “Nature Communications”. More info here
COS Scientist wins KlarText-Prize
28/07/20 COS Scientist Dr. Erika Tsingos wins the KlarText-Prize (Plain Text Prize) awarded by the Klaus Tschira Foundation, in the category Biology. She wrote the text about her scientific research on the topic of stem cells in the retina of the Japanese rice fish 'Medaka'. Both computersimulations and experimental research were combined to find out how stem cells communicate to produce exactly the right amount of cells. Her text will be published on the 8th of October in the science supplement of the ZEIT. On the same day the prizes will ceremonially be handed out to the seven winners, whom all will receive 7500 Euro prize money. More Info here: https://klartext-preis.de/..
Mediastudio for lecturers installed and ready to use
20/07/20 The faculty has installed a mediastudio which enables lecturers to record videos with professional audio and image quality for lectures, seminars, conferences, and other occasions. It is located in INF501 and you can find more information here
Biodiversity in the agricultural landscape
14/07/20 How does ecological farming influence plant biodiversity in the agricultural landscape? Are there positive effects on the landscape level if, for instance, ecological varieties are raised and fields cultivated sustainably? What is the impact of a fluid transition from conventional to ecological farming? These questions are the focus of the AgroBioDiv research project, which combines the respective expertise of Heidelberg University researchers in biology and political science. In addition to exploring biodiversity, the Heidelberg scientists also strive to investigate how policy and public management can support preserving biological diversity in agriculture. The four-year research project headed by Prof. Dr Marcus Koch (picture) and Prof. Dr Jale Tosun has approximately 400,000 euros in funding from the State of Baden-Württemberg. More Info here.
Protecting the neuronal architecture
12/06/20 Protecting nerve cells from losing their characteristic extensions, the dendrites, can reduce brain damage after a stroke. Neurobiologists from our Faculty have demonstrated this by means of research on a mouse model. The team, led by Prof. Dr Hilmar Bading (left) in cooperation with Junior Professor Dr Daniela Mauceri (right), is investigating the protection of neuronal architecture to develop new approaches to treating neurodegenerative diseases. The current research findings were published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”. More Info
DFG funds next round of two SFBs
29/05/20 The German Research Foundation (DFG) funds the second round of two research consortia which are organised as transregional CRCs, each with several participating universities. The project “Determinants and Dynamics of Elimination versus Persistence of Hepatitis Virus Infection led by Prof. Bartenschlager (left) and the project: “Molecular Switches in the Spatio-Temporal Control of Cellular Signal Transmission (SFB/TRR 186)” led by Prof. Nickel (right) will receive around 13,5 million euros each for the coming four years. More Info
Reactivate neurons to retrieve memories
29/05/20 Selectively increasing the levels of a protein called Dnmt3a2 in nerve cells that play a key role in memory storage boosts memory performance. This was demonstrated in experiments on mice by a group of scientists led by Dr Ana Oliveira. By increasing the levels of the epigenetic factor Dnmt3a2, the researchers from the Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences were able to modulate the reactivation of the relevant neurons, quite precisely in fact. The results are published in Nature Communications. More info
Otto Schmeil Prize for ZMBH Postdoc
17/04/20 Dr. Cardoso-Moreira in the group Prof. Dr. Henrik Kaessmann (ZMBH) and works on deciphering molecular networks which are responsible for organ development in early mammals. The Otto Schmeil Prize is awarded every two years for excellent research in biological and medical fundamental research fields.
New Alliance in the Fight Against Coronavirus and COVID-19
Researchers at Heidelberg University have formed an alliance – the fightCOVID @ Heidelberg research and development task force – with the aim to curb the coronavirus pandemic. To this end, scientists of the two Medical Faculties and the Heidelberg and Mannheim University Hospitals, the BioQuant centre, the Center for Molecular Biology and the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim have joined forces with colleagues from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg. More information
Andres Jäschke receives ERC Advanced Grant
2/04/20 Prof. Dr Andres Jäschke from the IPMB has been awarded a highly endowed grant from the European Research Council (ERC). He is receiving an ERC Advanced Grant for leading researchers in Europe worth 2.5 million euros. The funding over a period of five years will support a project in chemical biology investigating the as yet unknown modifications of ribonucleic acids (RNAs) and the role of these so-called coenzyme-linked RNAs as a biological regulatory mechanism. The Advanced Grant is awarded to researchers pursuing groundbreaking work in their field. More info here
How do cells disentangle clumped, and hence non-functional, proteins?
20/02/20 Clumped protein aggregates are not functional and linked to cellular ageing and numerous diseases, including neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. All organisms have therefore developed molecules capable of disentangling such damaging aggregates. The question is how do these so-called chaperones make these repairs. With the help of the bacterial ClpB chaperone, Dr Mario Avellaneda and Prof. Dr Sander Tams from Amsterdam along with researchers from our faculty Prof. Dr Bernd Bukau (left) and Associate Professor Dr Axel Mogk (right) found fundamental answers.More info here
How Cells Assemble Their Skeleton
15/01/20 Microtubules, filamentous structures within the cell, are required for many important processes, including cell division and intracellular transport. A research team led by scientists from our faculty recently discovered how the spiral-shaped, modular microtubules are formed and how their formation is controlled. Research groups Schiebel (left) and Pfeffer (right) and their cooperation partners visualised these processes using state-of-the-art cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). More info here
Price for best thesis to COS PhD
11/11/19 Dr. Eva-Sophie Wallner, former PhD student in the Developmental Physiology Research group of Prof. Thomas Greb at the COS, was awarded with the Ruprecht-Karls-Preis 2019 for best dissertation. Using a multistage selection procedure open to all scientific disciplines, the Heidelberg University Foundation usually selects the five best doctoral theses from the past year. The award ceremony was on Friday November 8. 2019.
New dean: Prof. Wittbrodt
1/10/19 The Faculty of Biosciences has found Prof. Wittbrodt willing to be the new dean of the faculty as of the first of October. His predecessor Prof. Schumacher became the new Vice-Rector Quality Development of the university. There are also two other new board members; Prof. Russell will start as the vice-dean of Research and Prof. Nickel will be the new dean of study for biochemistry.
Predicting Protein Functions using Intelligent neuronal networks
16/8/19 Researchers from the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) and our Faculty here at Heidelberg University have developed an intelligent neural network that uses algorithms to predict the functions of proteins. Dominik Niopek from the IPMB and his colleagues developed a new tool called DeeProtein, an intelligent neuronal network that can predict the function of a protein based on the sequence of protein building blocks. Moreover they were able by using a trick to observe how the network makes its predictions. They applied their approach for example on the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool. The results of this research were published in the journal “Nature Machine Intelligence”. More info here
Young Researcher's award goes to COS postdoc
12/8/19 Philippe Golfier, a postdoc from the BBW ForWerts Graduate Program at Centre for Organismal Studies (COS) at Heidelberg University has received the award of the 'Dr. Alexander and Dr. Rosemarie Bauer Stiftung'. The foundation supports young researchers with 2800 € for a research stay abroad to advance their research and to build an international network.
Philippe Golfier received the award for his work on 'Transcriptional regulation of secondary cell walls in Miscanthus sinensis'. The project aims to understand formation of lignocellulosic biomass in Miscanthus sinensis, a fast growing energy crop, which is considered as renewable resource for the production of bio-based products and energy in the future. The components of the lignocellulosic-rich secondary cell walls are tightly regulated by transcription factors. To gain deeper insight into the regulatory properties of three transcription factors (SND1, SCM1, and MYB103), Philippe Golfier spent three months in Prof. Dr. Yujie Fu's lab at the Beijing Forestry University in Beijing, China.
The results of his research were presented at the Bachelor Graduation Ceremony at Bioquant and subsequently the award was handed to Dr. Golfier by Prof. Thomas Greb, the academic dean of the Faculty of Bioscience (see image here).
Networks of Gene Activity Control Organ Development
25/6/19 Researchers from our faculty have decoded the genetic programmes that control the development of major organs in humans and other selected mammals – rhesus monkeys, mice, rats, rabbits, and opossums – before and after birth. Using next-generation sequencing technologies, the molecular biologists at from the ZMBH from the group of Henrik Kaessmann (image) analysed the brain, heart, liver, kidney, testicles, and ovaries. Their large-scale study demonstrated, among other things, that all the organs studied exhibit fundamental and original gene activity networks that must have originated early on in mammalian evolution more than 200 million years ago. In a second large study, the scientists explored for the first time the developmental roles of a hitherto poorly understood but large category of genes, so-called RNA genes, which produce ribonucleic acids and not proteins, like “normal” genes. More info here
Thomas Rausch Named Senior Professor Distinctus
14/6/19 For his service to Heidelberg University, in particular his outstanding dedication to the strategic advancement of the university’s profile in research and transfer, Prof. Dr Thomas Rausch has been appointed Senior Professor distinctus of Ruperto Carola. “At the intersection of science and society, Thomas Rausch championed the transfer of knowledge and dialogue with the public in many ways”, stresses the Rector of the university, Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel, who also praises the researcher’s contributions in conceiving and implementing initiatives associated with the Excellence Competition. Prof. Rausch is the long-time head of a research group at the Centre for Organismal Studies and one of the two directors of the Marsilius Kolleg. More info here
Karin Schumacher will be Vice-Rector Quality Development
6/6/19 From October 2019, Karin Schumacher (COS) will be Vice-Rector in the rectorate of the university. In that role she will be responsible for quality development and quality culture, as well as for the system accreditation. The Rectorate consists of two full-time members, the Rector and the Kanzler, as well as four part-time Vice-Rectors. The Rector and the Kanzler are elected to six-year terms. The Rector proposes the other four Vice-Rectors to the university Senate, who elects them to three-year terms. More info here
Successful prolongation of SFB 1158
27/05/19 The SFB (Sonderforschungsbereich) From Nociception to Chronic Pain: Structure-function Properties of Neural Pathways and Their Reorganisation, has secured a second funding period. The central question is how acute pain can transform into chronic pain and how this can be blocked or even reversed. Speaker of the SFB is Prof. Dr. Rohini Kuner, director of the Institute of Pharmacology of the medical faculty in Heidelberg. Several scientists of the faculty of Bioscience are also involved in this consortium. More info
Traffic Jam in the Cell: How Are Proteins Assigned to Specific Transporters?
9/04/19 A fundamental cellular mechanism ensures that proteins are transported to the places they are needed in the cells and vesicles are responsible for that transport. Determining their composition has been difficult up to now, not least because of their short life span. By combining innovative investigative techniques, biochemists at Heidelberg University have succeeded in analysing two of these transport vesicles – the COPI and COPII vesicles – comprehensively for the first time. Dr. Frank Adolf from the group of Prof. Wieland published the results of this research in the journal “Cell Reports”. More info here.
Launch of EU H2020 project ‘ERGO’
8/02/19 Prof. Dr. Thomas Braunbeck and Dr. Lisa Baumann of the Aquatic Ecology and Toxicology research group at the COS, just received 1.2 Mio Euro funding from the EU for two new research projects on the effects of endocrine disruptors in fish. Together with 15 international partners, they just launched their 5-year EU H2020 project "ERGO“ on new testing and screening methods to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals (see https://twitter.com/ERGO_EU). Additionally, they received funding for a 2-year EU tender project to develop study protocols for testing of endocrine disrupting effects in non-mammalian vertebrates or invertebrates to improve the identification of substances disturbing the endocrine system in biotic systems, i.e. regulatory relevant endpoints for environmental hazard assessment.
Bifacial Stem Cells Produce Wood and Bast
22/01/19 So-called bifacial stem cells are responsible for one of the most critical growth processes on Earth – the formation of wood. By alternately developing into wood and bast cells, these stem cells are thus starting points for forming wood as well as generating plant bast fibres. A team of researchers under the direction of Prof. Dr. Thomas Greb, a Heisenberg Professor at our faculty, were recently able to demonstrate this phenomenon using new experimental tools. The scientists from the Centre for Organismal Studies labelled and studied specific types of cells in the growth layer of plants, the cambium. More Info
Sulfate Helps Plants Cope With Water Scarcity
21/12/18 Plants absorb the mineral sulfate from groundwater. An international research team led by scientists Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Hell and Dr. Markus Wirtz, has uncovered how sulfate controls the production of the drought stress hormone ABA in plants and thus contributes to their drought-resistance. These findings improve scientists' understanding of how the drought-stress signal travels from the roots to the leaves. The studies in Heidelberg were carried out at the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS). More info
Faculty member in 'highly cited research'-list
03/12/18 Prof. Dr. Ralf Bartenschlager is one of the most cited scientists in his field worldwide. For the sixth time in a row, he is on the list of "Highly Cited Researchers" from Clarivate Analytics (previously part of Thomson Reuters). In the list of "Highly Cited Researchers", Heidelberg, together with the Goethe University in Frankfurt, is the most successful university in Germany. More info
Optogenetic tool to control the CRISPR/Cas9 gene scissors
21/11/18 A new molecular precision tool now makes it possible to alter the genome in human cell cultures more selectively than ever before. The tool known as the CRISPR/Cas9 gene scissors is controlled externally using an optogenetic process. To make this process possible, anti-CRISPR proteins were genetically engineered so they could be turned on and off – with light. The tool, called CASANOVA, was developed by Dr Dominik Niopek of the IPMB / BioQuant and Prof. Dr Roland Eils of the Berlin Institute for Health Research and formerly with Ruperto Carola and the German Cancer Research Center. More info here
Two new ERC Synergy Grants
24/10/18 Both Jan Lohmann and Joachim Wittbrodt and their respective cooperation partners were able to secure an ERC Synergy Grant over the next six years.
Jan Lohmann (COS) and his colleagues Michael Boutros (DKFZ), Wolfgang Huber (EMBL) und Oliver Stegle (EMBL/DKFZ) receive a grant for their project: DECODE, Decoding Context-Dependent Genetic Networks in vivo.
Jochen Wittbrodt (COS) and his colleague Ewan Birney (EBI, Hinxton, UK) were succesfull with their proposal ‘IndiGene’ – Genetics of individuality.
ERC Synergy grants are awarded to cooperations of two to four researchers, who can explicitly show that the project they propose can only be carried out by their combined efforts. The European Research Council published a list with all 27 honoured proposals. The official press release of the University can be found here.
Plants Emit Greenhouse Gas Nitrous Oxide at Substantial Amounts
Highly Organised Process: How Protein Complexes Form in the Cell
Precise, Highly Efficient Gene Repair
Protection For Nerve Cells Delivered Through The Nose
HEIDELTEC-team: Double success
DFG Funding For Heidelberg Collaborative Research Centres
Heidelberg University succeeded in gaining support from the German Research Foundation (DFG) in the latest approval round, receiving funding for three research networks. Two Collaborative Research Centres (CRC) in Heidelberg Medicine, the "Reactive Metabolites as a Cause of Diabetic Complications" CRC 1118 and the "Integrative Analysis of Pathogen Replication and Spread" CRC 1129, were both extended for a second four-year funding period. The “Maintenance and Differentiation of Stem Cells in Development and Disease” CRC 873 in the biosciences had its work approved for a third funding period. Total DFG funding for the three consortia is more than 35 million euros. Researchers from Heidelberg University are also involved in a transregional CRC with lead institution in Munich. More information
COS scientist wins FameLab competition
18/05/2018 Dr. Veli Vural Uslu wins the German national FameLab competition and secures a spot at the international final which takes place at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK. FameLab is an international competition organised by the Britisch Council to promote Science Communication. In three minutes, participants have to explain a scientific topic to a general audience. Dr. Uslu is a postdoc in the group of Prof. Rüdiger Hell (COS) and his research is all about how plants sense nutrients in their environment. At the national FameLab competition in Bielefeld he focussed on the 'good viruses' that create diversity in plants as well as in animals and thereby convincing the jury of his science communication skills. See also the Famelab-website and this article in a local newspaper.
Update (20/06/2018): Dr. Veli Vural Uslu actually wins second place in the international competion in Cheltenham. To see his performance there, see this clip on Youtube
15/05/2018 A new Emmy Noether junior research group has taken up its work at the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS). Group leader Dr Michael Raissig and his team are studying how grasses form microscopic “breathing” pores on their leaves. The researchers hope to unravel why the grass family, which includes major food crops like rice, maize and wheat, can exchange gases with the atmosphere so efficiently, thus conserving water in the process. Over the next five years, the “Biology of Stomata” research group will receive funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG) totalling approximately 1.5 million euros. More info here
26/04/2018 The intestine of many organisms must be able to renew itself to recover from environmental insults like bacterial infections. This renewal is made possible by a small number of intestinal stem cells which divide and produce daughter cells throughout their lives. The daughter cells differentiate into highly specialised gut cell types. Prof. Sylvia Erhardt and Dr. Ana García del Arco from the ZMBH have studied these processes in the fruit fly and gained new insights into the role of centromeric proteins that largely regulate cell division. The studies reveal that these proteins also play an important part in cell differentiation and tissue renewal. More information here
16/04/2018 A cleavage product of the Alzheimer's APP protein stimulates nerve cell communication and memory. The protein fragment, known as APPsα, has neuroprotective properties and acts as a signal molecule on other nerve cells. But how does it influence brain functions? An international research team led by Prof. Dr Ulrike Müller of Heidelberg University has gained new insights into the molecular mechanism underlying its physiological functions. The researchers discovered a receptor for APPsα, which paves the way for new treatment approaches for Alzheimer's. More information.
13/03/2018 Heidelberg Research in the Life Sciences and Medicine ranks first in Germany and 40th worldwide according to the latest QS world university rankings by subject. If only the Biosciences are taken into account, the University still ranks 40th worldwide and second in Germany. The QS Ranking, previously also known as the Times Higher Education Ranking, looks at several different aspects of scientific output like citation analysis, student/faculty ratios and reputation. The results are published each year. More information can be found here.
Spore "memory" links different stages of the bacterial life cycle
8/03/2018 The phenotypic memory of Bacillus subtilis spores can be visualized by tagging the enzyme alanine-dehydrogenase with a red fluorescent protein. Early forming spores contain higher levels of the enzyme than late forming spores. After the addition of the amino-acid L-alanine the early spores germinate faster and grow out. Bacterial spores store information about the individual growth history of their progenitor cells, thus retaining a "memory" that links the different stages of the bacterial life cycle. This phenomenon was demonstrated in a recent study by an interdisciplinary research team led by Dr Ilka Bischofs at the BioQuant Centre of Heidelberg University. The spore memory could give rise to various adaptive behaviours in microbes. The results of the study were published in the journal "Nature Communications". More Information
21/2/2018 The dean of our faculty Prof. Dr. Frauke Melchior, who works at the Center for Molecular Biology (ZMBH) was announced recipient of the 2018 FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award on Tuesday. Prof. Melchior recieves the prize for her outstanding achievements in the life sciences but also for guiding and mentoring young researchers and her open and cooperative way of doing science. More information in the EMBO press release
Dr. Dominik Niopek did not only win the Ruprecht-Karls-Preis, he also was selected for the Klaus-Tschira KlarText Prize last October. This prize is awarded to scientists who are able to explain the subject of their thesis in a clear and entertaining way. You can find his text here. Every year the Klaus-Tschira foundation awards this prize to seven scientists from the disciplines: Biology, Chemistry, Geoscience, Computer Science, Mathematics, Neuroscience and Physics. The next deadline is 28.02. More information here.
DFG grants millions for lipid research and research in plant processes
The SFB/TRR 83 “Molecular Architecture and Cellular Functions of Lipid/Protein Assemblies”, a joint network in lipid research of the universities of Heidelberg, Dresden, and Bonn, will continue its work in a third funding period. After a successful evaluation, the German Research Foundation (DFG) has approved funds of about 10,7 million euros. Ruperto Carola has the lead role; scientists at the Heidelberg University Biochemistry Center (BZH) coordinate all the cross-institute activities of the network.
The SFB 1101 "Molecular Encoding of Specificity in Plant Processes" received a second round of funding of about 12 million euros. The University of Tübingen is coordinating this SFB, but 5 professors of the Faculty of Biosciences, all from the Centre of Organismal Studies (COS), participate. More info
GBM-Prize for best master thesis
4/12/2017 On the 29th of November, ZMBH PhD candidate Roman Sakson received the GBM-Masterprize for his master thesis titled: “Establishment of an MRM Assay for the Quantification of Human Hsp90 and Its Cochaperones in Different HCC Cell Lines”. The Gesellschaft für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie (GBM) awards this prize every year to an excellent master thesis. His master thesis in Molecular Biotechnology was carried out in cooperation between the groups of Prof. Dr. Matthias Mayer and Dr. Thomas Ruppert.
Two Faculty Members in list of ‘highly cited researchers’
21/11/2017 Both Prof. Ralf Bartenschlager as well as Prof. Karin Schumacher are ranked in the top 1% by citations for field and publication year in Web of Science. Clarivate Analytics (a spin-off of Thomson Reuters) used the publications between 2005 and 2015 to calculate the scores. More info
Doctoral thesis awarded with Ruprecht Karls Prize
20/11/2017 Dr. Dominik Niopek received the Ruprecht Karls Prize for his thesis ‘Optogenetic control of Nucleocytoplasmic Protein Transport. This prize is awarded once a year by the Stiftung Universität Heidelberg to excellent young scientists who have made an extraordinary contribution to their field of science.
More info (in German)
Distant Relatives: TOR Protein Regulates Cell Growth in Plants and Animals
27/10/2017 Two such different organisms as plants and humans developed from a common precursor cell. Traces of this over one-billion-year kinship remain anchored in the genetic material of both organisms. An international team of plant researchers led by Dr Markus Wirtz and Prof. Dr Rüdiger Hell of Heidelberg University has looked more closely into one such trace – the TOR protein. In human and animal cells, TOR acts as a signal generator that controls both survival and cell growth. The Heidelberg researchers have now discovered how this protein also functions as a growth regulator in plants. More Info
27/10/2017 A paper by Dr. Sven Sahle (a junior group leader in the department of Prof. Kummer, COS, BioQuant) and Dr. Christoph Zimmer was awarded the 2017 IET Systems Biology Premium Award. This award is handed out each year by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to the best paper published within the last two years in one of their journals. His paper titled ‘Deterministic inference for stochastic systems using multiple shooting and a linear noise approximation for the transition probabilities’ can be found here.
14/10/2017 Many bacteria have molecular control elements, via which they can switch on and off genes. These riboswitches also open up new options in the development of antibiotics or for the detection and decomposition of environmental toxins. Prof. Dr. Andres Jäschke of the IPMB together with researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Freie Universität Berlin have now used light optical microscopy of single molecules to fundamentally study the way riboswitches work. This is reported in Nature Chemical Biology.
15/9/2017 New insights into the development of the vascular system: researchers in the team of Dr Carmen Ruiz de Almodóvar of the Heidelberg University Biochemistry Center have discovered a crucial biological step that regulates the formation of blood vessels. They were able to show that the proteins YAP and TAZ play an important role in this process. The new findings were published in the journal “Developmental Cell”. More Info
8/9/2017 Researchers from the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH) and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have investigated the mode of action of a molecular chaperone vital to protein synthesis. Together with colleagues from the University of Cologne and the Penn State University (USA), they were able to demonstrate that the speed of protein synthesis is associated with the function of the Ssb chaperone. The information controlling synthesis speed is stored in the genetic code of the cell, thus ensuring maximum efficiency and precision in synthesising functional proteins. The results of their research were published in “Cell”. More Info
26/7/2017 Heidelberg Delivery Technologies, HeiDelTec GmbH, a new start-up company, which has emerged from within the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology. After successful participation in the Exist-Research-Transfer Program of the BMWi, the IPMB leads basic pharmaceutical research to practical application thus setting new pulses in the area of improving bioavailability and effectiveness of drug formulations.
The founders, Dres. Silvia Pantze, Robin Tremmel, Frieder Helm and Johannes Parmentier from the group of Prof. Fricker, Dept. Pharmaceutical Technology and Biopharmacy, as well as business economist Moritz Stadler develop a technology, which allows oral administration of otherwise parenterally given drugs, e.g. peptides and proteins. These biologicals, covering a market volume of appr. 220 billion US$ p.a. have usually to be given by painful i.v. injections, and therefore alternative routes of administration are most desirable.
Novel approach to monitor functional protein complexes
Image: Isabel M. Schopp
9/06/2017 The composition of specific functional protein complexes in their cellular environment can now be analysed with unprecedented resolution. The team led by junior group leader Dr Julien Béthune at Heidelberg University Biochemistry Center has developed a new technique which allows the scientists to overcome a long-standing hurdle in molecular cell biology. The method called “split-BioID” allows them to analyse context-dependent protein complexes which could not be identified previously. Their research results were published in the journal “Nature Communications”. More Info here.
New Collaborative Research Center on a Fundamental Signaling Pathway in Development and Disease
26/05/2017 A new Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) will investigate the function of a fundamental cellular signaling pathway. Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the CRC will start its work at Heidelberg University. After successful review, the DFG approved approximately 8,5 million euros in funding for the next four years. Prof. Dr Thomas Holstein of the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS) is the spokesperson for CRC 1324, “Mechanisms and functions of WNT signaling”. The research will focus on Wnt proteins which control the central processes of embryonic development, cell differentiation, and the development of tumours. The comprehensive interdisciplinary collaboration aims to study the molecular mechanisms for the Wnt signaling pathway which is central to biology. The CRC will begin its work in July 2017. More information here.
Young Researcher´s award goes to HBIGS doctoral student
How Plants Form Their Sugar Transport Routes
Image: Eva-Sophie Wallner
27/04/2017 In experiments on transport tissues in plants, researchers from Heidelberg University were able to identify factors of crucial importance for the formation of the plant tissue known as phloem. According to Prof. Dr Thomas Greb of the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS), these factors differ from all previously known factors that trigger the specification of cells. The findings of the Heidelberg researchers substantially expand our understanding of the metabolic processes in plants. Their results were published in the journal "Current Biology". More Info
ERC Grant for Bernd Bukau
7/04/2017 The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded a highly endowed grant – an ERC Advanced Grant for leading researchers in Europe – to Heidelberg molecular biologist Prof. Dr Bernd Bukau. The five-year endowment will fund a research project in which the scientists will study the maturation of proteins in cells. The central question is how a cell can efficiently “fold” amino acid chains into functional proteins with a three-dimensional structure and assemble them to protein complexes. Prof. Bukau is director of the Centre for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH) and at the same time does research at the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ). Approximately 2.1 million euros are available to fund the research work, which will start in summer 2017. More info here.
ERC Grant for Ed Hurt
7/04/2017 The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded biochemist Prof. Dr Ed Hurt a highly endowed ERC Advanced Grant for outstanding research leaders in Europe. The project on the biogenesis of ribosomes will be funded for a period of five years. The researchers in Prof. Hurt's team want to study the largely unexplored processes that take place in the initial phase of the manufacture of these cellular protein factories. The results of the research could contribute to a greater understanding of ribosomopathies – diseases caused by impaired ribosome biogenesis. The research, which is scheduled to begin in 2018, will receive ERC funding of approximately two million euros. Ed Hurt teaches and conducts research at the Heidelberg University Biochemistry Center (BZH). More info here.
Taiwanese science council honors Hannah Monyer
Baden-Württemberg Foundation Funds Research Project on Protein Aggregation
22/02/17 Heidelberg molecular biologist Prof. Dr Bernd Bukau has been awarded a grant of approximately 280,000 euros from the Baden-Württemberg Foundation for a research project on the neurodegenerative disorder of Parkinson's disease. The project is a continuation of the previous work by Prof. Bukau and his team on the dissolution of protein aggregates that are responsible for a number of different diseases, including Alzheimer's. The experiments are focussed on so-called heat shock proteins (Hsp), which cells produce to counteract the aggregates. The Heidelberg University researchers expect their work to provide new insights into the origin and prevention of Parkinson's disease. The foundation is funding the project for three years as part of its "International Top Research III" programme.
Annika Guse receives ERC consolidator Grant
7/02/17 Heidelberg biologist Dr Annika Guse has been awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant for outstanding research talents, a highly endowed grant from the European Research Council (ERC). The funding is earmarked for a five-year project in molecular cell biology to investigate the symbiotic relationships between cnidarians such as corals and single-celled algae. The research, which is scheduled to begin in June 2017, will receive ERC funding totalling nearly 2.3 million euros. A portion of the funds will be used to purchase major research equipment. Annika Guse teaches and conducts research at the Centre for Organismal Studies at Heidelberg University.
More info here