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Tubingen, Germany

The Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology is located in Tübingen, Germany; it was founded in 1954 as an offshoot of the Tübingen-based Max Planck Institute for Biology. The main topics of scientific research conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology focus on the molecular mechanisms underlying spatial information within the embryo, communication between cells in the induction process, as well as the formation and differentiation of tissues and organs. Wikipedia.

Todesco M.,Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology
PLoS genetics | Year: 2010

Many targets of plant microRNAs (miRNAs) are thought to play important roles in plant physiology and development. However, because plant miRNAs are typically encoded by medium-size gene families, it has often been difficult to assess their precise function. We report the generation of a large-scale collection of knockdowns for Arabidopsis thaliana miRNA families; this has been achieved using artificial miRNA target mimics, a recently developed technique fashioned on an endogenous mechanism of miRNA regulation. Morphological defects in the aerial part were observed for approximately 20% of analyzed families, all of which are deeply conserved in land plants. In addition, we find that non-cleavable mimic sites can confer translational regulation in cis. Phenotypes of plants expressing target mimics directed against miRNAs involved in development were in several cases consistent with previous reports on plants expressing miRNA-resistant forms of individual target genes, indicating that a limited number of targets mediates most effects of these miRNAs. That less conserved miRNAs rarely had obvious effects on plant morphology suggests that most of them do not affect fundamental aspects of development. In addition to insight into modes of miRNA action, this study provides an important resource for the study of miRNA function in plants.

Jekely G.,Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2011

Behaviour evolved before nervous systems. Various single-celled eukaryotes (protists) and the ciliated larvae of sponges devoid of neurons can display sophisticated behaviours, including phototaxis, gravitaxis or chemotaxis. In single-celled eukaryotes, sensory inputs directly influence the motor behaviour of the cell. In swimming sponge larvae, sensory cells influence the activity of cilia on the same cell, thereby steering the multicellular larva. In these organisms, the efficiency of sensory-to-motor transformation (defined as the ratio of sensory cells to total cell number) is low. With the advent of neurons, signal amplification and fast, long-range communication between sensory and motor cells became possible. This may have first occurred in a ciliated swimming stage of the first eumetazoans. The first axons may have had en passant synaptic contacts to several ciliated cells to improve the efficiency of sensory-to-motor transformation, thereby allowing a reduction in the number of sensory cells tuned for the same input. This could have allowed the diversification of sensory modalities and of the behavioural repertoire. I propose that the first nervous systems consisted of combined sensory-motor neurons, directly translating sensory input into motor output on locomotor ciliated cells and steering muscle cells. Neuronal circuitry with low levels of integration has been retained in cnidarians and in the ciliated larvae of some marine invertebrates. This parallel processing stage could have been the starting point for the evolution of more integrated circuits performing the first complex computations such as persistence or coincidence detection. The sensory-motor nervous systems of cnidarians and ciliated larvae of diverse phyla show that brains, like all biological structures, are not irreducibly complex. © 2010 The Royal Society.

Neher R.A.,Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology
Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics | Year: 2013

To learn about the past from a sample of genomic sequences, one needs to understand how evolutionary processes shape genetic diversity. Most population genetics inferences are based on frameworks assuming that adaptive evolution is rare. But if positive selection operates on many loci simultaneously, as has recently been suggested for many species, including animals such as flies, then a different approach is necessary. In this review, I discuss recent progress in characterizing and understanding evolution in rapidly adapting populations, in which random associations of mutations with genetic backgrounds of different fitness, i.e., genetic draft, dominate over genetic drift. As a result, neutral genetic diversity depends weakly on population size but strongly on the rate of adaptation or more generally the variance in fitness. Coalescent processes with multiple mergers, rather than Kingman's coalescent, are appropriate genealogical models for rapidly adapting populations, with important implications for population genetics inference. © Copyright ©2013 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.

Zeth K.,Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics | Year: 2010

Gram-negative bacteria are the ancestors of mitochondrial organelles. Consequently, both entities contain two surrounding lipid bilayers known as the inner and outer membranes. While protein synthesis in bacteria is accomplished in the cytoplasm, mitochondria import 90-99% of their protein ensemble from the cytosol in the opposite direction. Three protein families including Sam50, VDAC and Tom40 together with Mdm10 compose the set of integral β-barrel proteins embedded in the mitochondrial outer membrane in S. cerevisiae (MOM). The 16-stranded Sam50 protein forms part of the sorting and assembly machinery (SAM) and shows a clear evolutionary relationship to members of the bacterial Omp85 family. By contrast, the evolution of VDAC and Tom40, both adopting the same fold cannot be traced to any bacterial precursor. This finding is in agreement with the specific function of Tom40 in the TOM complex not existent in the enslaved bacterial precursor cell. Models of Tom40 and Sam50 have been developed using X-ray structures of related proteins. These models are analyzed with respect to properties such as conservation and charge distribution yielding features related to their individual functions. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

Hocker B.,Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology
Current Opinion in Structural Biology | Year: 2014

Nature has generated an impressive set of proteins with diverse folds and functions. It has been able to do so using mechanisms such as duplication and fusion as well as recombination of smaller protein fragments that serve as building blocks. These evolutionary mechanisms provide a template for the rational design of new proteins from fragments of existing proteins. Design by duplication and fusion has been explored for a number of symmetric protein folds, while design by rational recombination has just emerged. First experiments in recombining fragments from the same and different folds are proving successful in building new proteins that harbor easily evolvable properties originating from the parents. Overall, duplication and recombination of smaller fragments shows much potential for future applications in the design of proteins. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

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