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Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Zellbiologie und Genetik

Professur für Zelluläre Maschinen

Biological life may be viewed as a hierarchy of molecular processes, where complexity is further compounded by the fact that individual cellular machines can have many different functions. Conventional biological techniques, however, only detect sufficient signals from large assemblies of cellular machines. Consequently, the measured function of a species is commonly enveloped by a Gaussian distribution. But how do cellular machines behave and function individually? Which reaction pathways do they choose? What are their trajectories and how do they interact with each other? What aspects of their structure give rise to variance in their behavior? In the discipline of cellular machines the function, variability, and assembly of cellular machines are characterized. These observations are performed across dimensions from single proteins reconstituted into a membrane fragment to proteins forming functional rafts in living cells. To achieve this goal, recent developments of microscopy techniques are applied, which enable simultaneous measurement of multiple signals on individual macromolecules, and greatly extend the range of experiments possible for probing biological systems at the molecular level. Biologists exploring molecular mechanisms will benefit from novel insights revealed by this highly interdisciplinary field, from a burgeoning of these microscopes and of their future combination with molecular biological experiments. Future applications The fragmentation of knowledge into different disciplines lead 20th century scientists into isolation. The challenge of new University curricula (Master of molecular bioengineering) and the highly interdisciplinary approach to understand cellular machines on a complex level is to reverse this trend. Machines in the 21st century can no longer be huge masses of metals, plastics and high cost materials. Instead, cellular machines must be harnessed to provide the same functions at much smaller scale, greater efficiency, minimal energy requirements and with little pollution. To do so we must understand these machines and learn how to use them for our purposes.


Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Zellbiologie und Genetik
Professur für Zelluläre Maschinen
Pfotenhauerstraße 108
01307 Dresden
Forschung & Lehre