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Faculty of Biology

About us

Biology, the science of life, encompasses a multitude of disciplines. This diversity is reflected in the variety of subjects to be studied at the Faculty of Biology, ranging from organismic disciplines in Zoology and Botany to molecular aspects in Genetics, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. The various groups collaborate closely with the Centre for Medical Biotechnology (ZMB) and the Centre for Water and Environmental Research (ZWU).

Friday October 07

Faculty day 2016

As a good tradition just before the winter term is starting, we would like to invite you to our faculty day on Friday Oct 07, in room S04 T01 A01. Afterwards the graduation ceremony will take place.

15.30h: Faculty day with two talks of young scientists of our faculty

17:00h: Graduation ceremony

The detailed programme could be found in the flyer.

Funding Initiative „Experiment!“ by Volkswagen Foundation

GeoBio-Interactions: Ants and tectonic processes

GeoBio-Interactions: Contributions to climatic change of the relations between activities of red wood ants (Formica rufa-group) and tectonic processes
Red wood ants (RWA; Formica rufa-group) are bio-indicators for seismically active, gas-permeable faults and nest most successfully on top of them. This GeoBio-project will combine unique and innovative geochemical, geophysical, biological, and image-analysis techniques with state-of-the-art statistical methods to identify and determine in-situ relationships between activity patterns of RWA and [i] changing nest- and soil-gas concentrations (e.g., He, CH4); [ii] geophysical processes such as seismic events and earth-tides; and [iii] local weather and climatic conditions. Findings from this multidisciplinary project should lead to a deeper understanding of GeoBio-interactions and determine the magnitude of organic gases that may contribute to climatic change from RWA nests.

Project leader
Dr. Gabriele Berberich, UDE


Prof. Aaron. M. Ellison, Harvard University (website)
Prof. Christian Wöhler, Technische Universität Dortmund (website)

Project term Spring 2016 – Autumn 2017 (18 months)

Funded by Volkswagen Foundation; Az 91 140

more information

“Experiment!” Volkswagen

The geomagnetic field as a potential zeitgeber

The eusocial Ansell’s mole-rat (Fukomys anselli) lives underground in extended tunnel systems and has the remarkable ability to sense the geomagnetic field (GMF). The subterranean ecotope lacks typical environmental factors (e.g. daily changes of light-darkness or temperature) that its inhabitants could use as a zeitgeber. In this project, we will test the hypothesis that the circadian rhythm of subterranean mole-rats depends on daily fluctuations of the GMF, which can be suppressed by shielding and reintroduced by simulating such fluctuations. The entrainment to a non-photic zeitgeber like the GMF could be especially important for social animals: synchronization of the sleep-wake rhythm could influence for instance thermoregulation (huddling). Our findings would constitute first conclusive evidence for a magnetic zeitgeber in a mammal with great implications for research in both, chronobiology and magnetoreception.

PD Dr. Sabine Begall Dr. Erich Pascal Malkemper

Recent Paper published in Nature Chemical Biology

Determinants of amyloid fibril degradation by the PDZ protease HTRA1

Simon Poepsel, Andreas Sprengel, Barbara Sacca, Farnusch Kaschani, Markus Kaiser, Christos Gatsogiannis, Stefan Raunser, Tim Clausen & Michael Ehrmann


Excessive aggregation of proteins has a major impact on cell fate and is a hallmark of amyloid diseases in humans. To resolve insoluble deposits and to maintain protein homeostasis, all cells use dedicated protein disaggregation, protein folding and protein degradation factors. Despite intense recent research, the underlying mechanisms controlling this key metabolic event are not well understood. Here, we analyzed how a single factor, the highly conserved serine protease HTRA1, degrades amyloid fibrils in an ATP-independent manner. This PDZ protease solubilizes protein fibrils and disintegrates the fibrillar core structure, allowing productive interaction of aggregated polypeptides with the active site for rapid degradation. The aggregate burden in a cellular model of cytoplasmic tau aggregation is thus reduced. Mechanistic aspects of ATP-independent proteolysis and its implications in amyloid diseases are discussed.

Recent Publication in Nature Scientific Reports

Magnetoreception in the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus): influence of weak frequency-modulated radio frequency fields

Malkemper EP, Eder SH, Begall S, Phillips JB, Winklhofer M, Hart V, Burda H.

Orientation of wood mice nests built in a visually symmetrical circular arena.

The mammalian magnetic sense is predominantly studied in species with reduced vision such as mole-rats and bats. Far less is known about surface-dwelling (epigeic) rodents with well-developed eyes. Here, we tested the wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus for magnetoreception using a simple behavioural assay in which mice are allowed to build nests overnight in a visually symmetrical, circular arena. The tests were performed in the ambient magnetic field or in a field rotated by 906. When plotted with respect to magnetic north, the nests were bimodally clustered in the northern and southern sectors, clearly indicating that the animals used magnetic cues. Additionally, mice weretested in the ambientmagnetic field with a superimposed radio frequency magnetic field of the order of 100 nT. Wood mice exposed to a 0.9 to 5 MHz frequency sweep changed their preference from north-southtoeast-west.Incontrasttobirds,however,a constant frequency field tuned to the Larmor frequency (1.33 MHz) had no effect on mouse orientation. In sum , we demonstrated magnetoreception in wood mice and provide first evidence for a radical-pair mechanism in a mammal.

More aboutMagnetoreception in the wood mouse...


Selected Publications

Poepsel S, Sprengel A, Sacca B, Kaschani F, Kaiser M, Gatsogiannis C, Raunser S, Clausen T, Ehrmann M. Determinants of amyloid fibril degradation by the PDZ protease HTRA1. Nat Chem Biol. 2015 Oct 5. [Epub ahead of print]

Nickel S, Nickel P, Hellmert M, Ernst S, Jewell R, Pearce CA, Jones G, Hamza D, Kaiser M. Synthesis of a hexahydropyrrolo indole (HPI) compound library. Bioorg Med Chem. 2015 Jun 1;23(11):2636-45.

Sierra S, Dybowski JN, Pironti A, Heider D, Güney L, Thielen A, Reuter S, Esser S, Fätkenheuer G, Lengauer T, Hoffmann D, Pfister H, Jensen B, Kaiser R. Parameters Influencing Baseline HIV-1 Genotypic Tropism Testing Related to Clinical Outcome in Patients on Maraviroc. PLoS One. 2015 May 13;10(5):e0125502.

Malkemper EP, Eder SH, Begall S, Phillips JB, Winklhofer M, Hart V, Burda H. Magnetoreception in the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus): influence of weak frequency-modulated radio frequency fields. Sci Rep. 2015 Apr 29;4:9917.

Serrano M, Kombrink E, Meesters C. Considerations for designing chemical screening strategies in plant biology. Front Plant Sci. 2015 Apr 8;6:131. Review.

Selbach C, Soldánová M, Sures B. Estimating the risk of swimmer's itch in surface waters - A case study from Lake Baldeney, River Ruhr. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2015 Mar 30.

Bracht T, Schweinsberg V, Trippler M, Kohl M, Ahrens M, Padden J, Naboulsi W, Barkovits K, Megger DA, Eisenacher M, Borchers CH, Schlaak JF, Hoffmann AC, Weber F, Baba HA, Meyer HE, Sitek B. Analysis of disease-associated protein expression using quantitative proteomics-fibulin-5 is expressed in association with hepatic fibrosis. J Proteome Res. 2015 May 1;14(5):2278-86.

Ehrmann M, Kaschani F, Kaiser M. Chemical proteomics versus leishmaniasis. Chem Biol. 2015 Mar 19;22(3):309-10.

Hartmann-Fatu C, Trusch F, Moll CN, Michin I, Hassinen A, Kellokumpu S, Bayer P. Heterodimers of Tyrosylprotein Sulfotrans-ferases suggest existence of a higher organization level of transferases in the membrane of the trans-Golgi apparatus. J Mol Biol. 2015 Feb 5. pii: S0022-2836(15)00077-7.

Li M, Schlesiger S, Knauer SK, Schmuck C. A Tailor-Made Specific Anion-Binding Motif in the Side Chain Transforms a Tetrapeptide into an Efficient Vector for Gene Delivery. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2015 Jan 22.

Saccà B, Ishitsuka Y, Meyer R, Sprengel A, Schöneweiß EC, Nienhaus GU, Niemeyer CM. Reversible Reconfiguration of DNA Origami Nanochambers Monitored by Single-Molecule FRET. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2015 Jan 28.