DynaMem – Membrane dynamics: Molecular foundations and theoretical descriptions

Membrane systems of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), plastids and mitochondria. / Plant root cell producing a yellow fluorescence-labeled plastid protein, recorded with a light-disc microscope / single plastid with fluorescence-labeled protein: stroma (blue), inner membrane (green), outer membrane (red) - fluorescence image by confocal laser scanning microscope.

Membrane systems of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), plastids and mitochondria. / Plant root cell producing a yellow fluorescence-labeled plastid protein, recorded with a light-disc microscope (Photos: Prof. Dr. Enrico Schleiff) / Single plastid with fluorescence-labeled protein: stroma (blue), inner membrane (green), outer membrane (red) - fluorescence image by confocal laser scanning microscope (published: Machettira, Anu B. et al. “Protein-Induced Modulation of Chloroplast Membrane Morphology.” Frontiers in plant science 2 [2011]: 118. PMC. Web. 8 Mar. 2018).

Cells are the basic units of all living organisms. Like many of their intracellular components, they are limited by membranes. These cell membranes are extremely dynamic molecular structures that move against each other. In this way, the cell can react flexibly to environmental conditions and fulfil a wide variety of functions. In DynaMem, Loewe’s new project, which is led by Goethe University, research groups from Frankfurt and Mainz want to understand the fundamental biochemical and molecular mechanisms underlying the dynamics of membranes. From the knowledge gained, strategies are to be derived which enable the specific modification of membrane-dynamic processes.

This knowledge is also important for medical research because membranes change with ageing and when under stress - they play a role in the differentiation of cells, as well as in the programmed death of cells. There are important target molecules located here for therapeutics. In addition, the influence of low molecular weight substances on membrane dynamics will be examined. Findings on effect mechanisms are of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry and could contribute significantly to the optimization of drugs for various diseases such as neuromuscular diseases or Parkinson's disease.

In recent years, an internationally outstanding infrastructure for the research of biological membranes has emerged at the Frankfurt and Mainz sites, ranging from basic research to medical-clinical research. In addition to Goethe University and Gutenberg University of Mainz, the Frankfurt Max Planck Institute for Biophysics and the Max Plank Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz are also involved.

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