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Max-Planck-Institut für molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie

Scientific Profile

The past few decades have seen the use of a reductive approach to understanding molecular physiology. This approach has yielded a huge body of knowledge that we are now synthesising with the aid of functional genomic approaches. We are forming a holistic view of the structure, function, and regulation of entire plant genomes, proteomes, and metabolomes.

Our mission is to study biological phenomena in plants at a molecular level using systems (whole plant) biology. We emphasise multidisciplinary research, combining traditional biological approaches with techniques relevant to functional genomics to look at how plants live and reproduce. In this context, we develop and implement novel tools that can be applied at the living plant level (non-invasive/minimally-invasive technologies) to create a holistic picture of metabolism in the context of growth and development.

Central to our research is the analysis of genetically diverse plants. Altered plants are generated using both forward (phenotype to gene) and reverse (gene to phenotype) genetics. In all cases, the link between a gene and its role in the intact plant is sought. We follow this link by phenotyping plants under a multitude of environmental conditions. Transcripts, proteins, and metabolites present in samples representing various morphological levels (single cell to whole plant) are analysed in our search for clues to help us understand the roles of these molecules in planta.

Department 1

Prof Lothar Willmitzer directs Department 1, Molecular Physiology, which started operating in 1995. To gain insight into plant systems, the research groups within this department focus on metabolism in its broadest sense, primarily using reverse genetics to alter plants and functional genomic approaches to analyse the pleiotropic effects of these alterations. The development of new methods and tools for biochemical analysis and data mining is emphasised. Amino Acid Metabolism, Plant Lipids, Metabolomic Analysis, Plant-Environment Interaction, Micro- and Protein-Analysis, Root Metabolism, and Central Metabolism are Department 1’s currently operating groups.

Department 2

Prof Mark Stitt directs Department 2, Metabolic Networks, which started operating in 2001. The research groups within this department study a wide set of physiological processes involved in orchestrating photosynthetic carbon metabolism, growth, and storage. Systems biology will be emphasised, and forward and reverse genetic tools will often be used to look at metabolite production and allocation. Department 2’s first groups, Storage Carbohydrate Metabolism, System Regulation, Molecular Genomics, and Nucleotides and Sugars, are now operating.

Independent Groups

The MPG continually supports up to three Independent Research Groups in our institute, each for a period of five to six years. Highly competitive young scientists lead these groups, which operate outside the departmental structure of the Institute. One such group, Molecular Plant Nutrition, led by Dr Michael Udvardi, began operating in 1998. A second group, Plant Cell Walls, led by Dr Markus Pauly, started up in 2001.

Central Infrastructure Groups

The MPI-MP supports two Central Infrastructure Groups. The leaders of these groups run their own research programmes while simultaneously providing support within their areas of expertise for other institute scientists. Biophysical Analysis and Bioinformatics are currently operating as Central Infrastructure Groups within our institute.

Cooperative Research Groups

To tighten our links with German universities, we maintain joint projects with university research groups. Such cooperation allows the intense exchange of scientific information and expertise. One Cooperative Research Group is currently operating: The transcription factor contingent of Plant Signalling, led by Prof Müller-Röber.

BioFuture Group

Metal Homeostasis is an independent group funded primarily by an award received by Dr Ute Krämer through the BioFuture Competition. This group is operating as an exclusive guest of the Institute for a five-year period that began in March 2000.


Max-Planck-Institut für molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie
Am Mühlenberg 1
14424 Potsdam
Tel: + 49 (331) 567 80
Fax: + 49 (331) 567 8408



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