Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen

Biological basic research with a pioneering role

All living things change - both in the course of their lives and over generations. The Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen (until the end of 2021: Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology) is concerned with the development and evolution of animals and plants. The institute's scientists investigate how a functional organism develops from a fertilized egg cell and which genes are involved. In addition, they are analyzing the role of these developmental processes in the formation of new species as well as the evolution of proteins. To find answers to their questions, the researchers are working with so-called model organisms such as zebrafish, fruit flies, nematodes and thale cress, a relative of cabbage plants. Indeed, genes that influence development have been shown to function in a similar way in different organisms - whether flies and humans or thale cress and rice.

Abteilungen

Microbiome Science

Microbiome Science

Director: Prof. Ruth Ley, PhD

In the Department of Microbiome Science we ask fundamental questions about the evolutionary origins of the human gut microbiome and how it influences host physiology and evolution. We have the following main areas of research: evolution of the human gut microbiome and interplay with host genetics, lipids in host-microbiome symbiosis, microbiota-innate immune interactions, ecology and evolution of host-associated methanogens, and host phenotype effects of heritable microbiota.
Algal Development and Evolution

Algal Development and Evolution

Director: Dr. Susana Coelho

Our research focuses on the origin, evolution, and regulation of sexual systems diversity and on the molecular and evolutionary mechanisms that underlie the complex developmental patterns and reproductive features in brown algae. Brown algae have been evolving independently of animals and land plants for more than a billion years. During that time, they have become the third most developmentally complex lineage on the planet. They also exhibit a fascinating range of types of sexual life cycles and sex determination systems. This extraordinary group of eukaryotes is expected to provide fundamental insights into the processes underlying the evolution of complex multicellular life.
Protein Evolution

Protein Evolution

Director: Prof. Dr. Andrei Lupas

Proteins are essential building blocks of all living cells; indeed, life can be viewed as resulting substantially from the chemical activity of proteins. Because of their importance, it is hardly surprising that ancestors for most proteins observed today were already present at the time of the 'last common ancestor', a primordial organism from which all life on Earth is descended. How did the first proteins arise? How does their sequence of amino acids enable their chemical activity? These questions are at the center of our scientific efforts at our Department of Protein Evolution.
Integrative Evolutionary Biology

Integrative Evolutionary Biology

Director: Prof. Dr. Ralf J. Sommer

We link development, ecology, and population genetics in a highly integrative approach to study how novel and complex traits evolve as a result of historical processes. We focus on developmental (phenotypic) plasticity as a facilitator for the evolution of novelty, complex traits, and phenotypic divergence. 
Molecular Biology

Molecular Biology

Director: Prof. Dr. Detlef Weigel

The long-term goal at our research department is to understand both the molecular mechanisms and the evolution of adaptive traits. To this end, we are using both phenotype-first and genotype-first approaches to identify genetic variants with a potential role in local, regional or global adaptation. Such studies benefit tremendously from knowledge about the genomes of other species, as well from a historical perspective that exploits ancient DNA methods to unlock the knowledge stored in herbaria. One of our lines of research, on fitness tradeoffs, is now being supported through a grant from the ERC.

Research groups

Plant Pathogen Evolution

Plant Pathogen Evolution

Research Group Leader: Dr. Honour McCann

We investigate disease emergence in agricultural systems, focusing on bacterial infectious diseases caused by Pseudomonas syringae and more recently, Ralstonia solanacearum. We use population genomics and phylogeographic inference to reconstruct the direction and timing of migration events, identify outbreak origins and detect host shift or host range expansion events.
Ciliate genomics and molecular biology

Ciliate genomics and molecular biology

Research group leader: Dr. Estienne Swart

This research group is pursuing research in ciliates, a diverse group of eukaryotic microbes. In these organisms, a sophisticated developmental process transforms a copy of their germline genome into a somatic one. Most of the research into this process has taken place in just a few model ciliate species and has just begun scratching the surface of the
underlying mechanisms. We have been taking a comparative approach to investigate these processes both in a classical model (Paramecium tetraurelia), and in a couple new, distantly related ciliate species (Loxodes magnus and Blepharisma stoltei).
Mutualisms

Mutualisms

Research Group Leader: Dr. Hassan Salem

Numerous adaptations in animals are a direct consequence of symbiosis. We are interested in the evolutionary processes that shape mutually beneficial species interactions, with emphasis on why they form and how they are maintained. Among the most pervasive and streamlined symbioses found in nature are the mutualisms forged between herbivorous insects and bacteria. Research in the lab involves studying herbivore-microbe interactions across multiple biological scales to characterize the currencies that define these partnerships, and describe the developmental profiles contributing to their persistence. 
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