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Research areas of the Institute for Biochemistry

The Institute for Biochemistry currently comprises six independent research groups working on topics like molecular neurobiology, peptide-based delivery systems, redox biochemistry, structural biology and lipid and cell wall metabolism in algae.

The institute's research has in part a direct relation to health and disease. For example, the molybdenum cofactor precursor is used as a therapeutic agent, inhibitors of protein kinases act as potential anti-cancer chemotherapeutics, and specific peptides can be used for specific drug delivery. Thus, there are numerous collaborations with other Departments of the University, e.g. the Biochemistry Center of the Medical Faculty, the Institute of Pharmacology, the Centre of Molecular Medicine (CMMC) or the Cluster of Excellence Cellular Stress Responses in Aging-Associated Diseases (CECAD), as well as with partners from abroad.

The research groups participate in the Collaborative Research Councils 635 and 829, in the Priority Programmes 1710 and 1927 or in the EU ITN MagicBullet. They are also integrated in various Graduate Schools, e.g. the Graduate School of Biological Sciences or the graduate program Pharmacology und Experimental Therapeutics (supported by Bayer Healthcare).

The group of Ulrich Baumann investigates structure-function relationships in proteases, translation initiation factors and extracellular matrix components and is especially interested in the mechanism and specificity of metalloproteases and the ATP-driven conformational changes occurring in protein degradation machines like FtsH. The group also investigates how Serpins fold collagen and explores the architecture of protein complexes involved in translation initiation. The atomic structure of these molecules is visualized by X-ray crystallography.

Ines Neundorf develops peptides with tailor-made delivery properties useful as e.g. oligonucleotide transfection vectors or transporters for cytotoxic drugs. A matter of interest is in solid phase peptide synthesis strategies for modifying the peptides with unusual amino acids, or different reporter groups (e.g. particles, fluorophors, metal complexes). In several cell based assays cytotoxicity, stability and uptake efficiency is tested.

Karsten Niefind investigates the structural and biophysical basis of function and inhibition of eukaryotic protein kinases, of biotechnologically relevant enzymes and of proteins involved in the plant innate immune response.

Jan Riemer's group addresses questions of mitochondrial biology with a special focus on redox regulations, oxidative folding and regulation of the mitochrondrial protein import.

Günter Schwarz is interested in the biogenesis of the molybdenum cofactor, its deficiency and function in humans as well as therapeutic approached towards the treatment of metabolic disorders. The group also studies the enzymology of plant and mammalian molybdenum enzymes such as nitrate reductase and sulfite oxidase. Other major fields of interest are the understanding of the cell biology and biochemistry of inhibitory synapses in the central nervous system and the structure and function of the scaffolding protein gephyrin.

Sabine Waffenschmidt’s research focuses on proline hydroxylation and its effect on peptide conformation, as well as structural characterization of O-linked glycans in the Volvocales.