MDC at a glance
Science is beautiful. We take this literally. For many years, the MDC has run an annual contest to find the best scientific images. Some of them are printed on flags that are displayed during outdoor events such as the Long Night of Sciences, some are used for our publications or posters. As much as we love to do science we love to display the results.
So have a look at some of our scientific images and the science behind them. Please note: For design reasons, we had some of the pictures in the flyer altered in their colouring. Here, you will see the original pictures with the colours the experiments yielded.
Signal transduction in development and carcinogenesis (1st place 2016)
Picture: Julian Heuberger und Anje Sporbert, MDC
Groups: Walter Birchmeier und Anje Sporbert
The image is in fact a three-dimensional reconstruction of a mouse embryo made up of 360 individual images. The developing nervous system is visible in green.
Fine nerve fibers run through the embryo. The nervous system is created during embryonic development, keeps developing after birth, and remains a flexible and adaptable organ. The fine neuronal structures are extremely sensitive throughout pregnancy and vulnerable to external influences. That’s why alcohol consumption, smoking, radiation and certain maternal conditions can cause damage to the embryo’s developing nervous system.
Sperm thicket – the maze of genetic information (1st place 2015)
Picture: Karina Oberheide, MDC
Group: Thomas J. Jentsch
Insight into the heart
Picture: Marcel Nowak, MDC
Group: Thomas Sommer
The picture shows a heart muscle precursor cell in rats. The cell nucleus has been stained blue. Two proteins involved in degrading proteins that are defective or no longer required have been labelled with a red or green fluorescing protein. They are located in the same places, so the colors are superimposed (yellow)
The degrading of proteins in cells is coordinated mainly by the ubiquitin proteasome system. A protein that is to be degraded is tagged with the small protein ubiquitin; it can then be recognized by the proteasome and degraded. E3 ubiquitin ligases play an important part in this process. They bind the protein that is to be degraded and then coordinate ubiquitin transfer. The most important E3 ubiquitin ligases in the muscle are the muscle-specific RING finger proteins (MURF). A project aimed at further characterization of the MURFs investigated, among other things, the distribution of MURF proteins in heart muscle cells.
Picture: Sophie Escot, MDC
Group: Francesca Spagnoli
In order to trace the organization and development of the pancreas, we observe its growth in mouse embryos from day 11.5 of embryonic development outside the body, in a dish. Here we show such an explant, in which the cell membrane is stained blue (a staining for the E-cadherin molecule). The pink staining is the hormone insulin, which is only produced in the beta cells.
Diabetes is an incurable disease that affects more than 250 million people worldwide. Diabetics lack functional endocrine cells in the pancreas – the beta cells that excrete the hormone insulin and thereby regulate our blood sugar. Cell-based therapies offer a promising prospect of a cure for Type 1 diabetes, but they require detailed investigation of the embryonic development of the pancreas. The researcher behind the picture is studying how beta cells arise from endocrine precursor cells and how they organize themselves into three-dimensional structures, the islets of Langerhans.
In the thicket of memories
Picture: Thomas Müller, MDC
Group: Carmen Birchmeier-Kohler
The hippocampus is a part of the cerebrum in which memories are formed and linked. Because of its orderly structure it is a popular model for neurophysiological investigation. This picture shows a section of the hippocampus, the CA1 region. Interneurons have been labelled with an anti-ErbB4 antibody (magenta). Nrg3 has been detected with a second antibody (cyan). The overlap of ErbB4 and Nrg3 on the surface of the interneurons is indicated by the dark blue coloring.
The families of neuregulin ligands and ErbB receptors are molecules that transfer signals between various cells. Neuregulins are released by one type of cell and bind the ErbB receptors on the surface of an adjacent cell, rather like a lock and key. This binding activates the receptor, which then alters proteins in the cytoplasm of the cell enzymatically, thereby conducting the signal into the cell.
Neuregulins and ErbB receptors have important functions during development of the embryo and continue to exert an effect in the adult organism. It has been known since 2002 that certain variants of the genes that code for neuregulin-1 and -3 and the receptor ErbB4 occur particularly frequently in schizophrenia patients. The research group is investigating the function of neuregulin-3 (Nrg3) and ErbB4 in the brains of mice. The researchers have established that ErbB4 is produced by a small population of certain nerve cells, the fast-spiking interneurons. Nrg3 binds to ErbB4 on the surface of these neurons. The group is currently analyzing how Nrg3 influences the properties of the ErbB4-positive interneurons and hence the functioning of the brain.
When molecules misbehave
Picture: Jochen Meier, MDC
Group: Jochen Meier
This picture shows nerve cells (pink) in the hippocampus – an area of the brain that is particularly susceptible to epilepsy. The blue coloring indicates cell nuclei in which pathogenic reworking of the protein code is taking place.
Some 50 million people worldwide suffer from chronic epilepsy. With varying degrees of frequency, sufferers experience seizures that significantly restrict their everyday lives. Epilepsy patients manage their condition with drugs, but sooner or later these unfortunately become ineffective for many. One solution is surgical removal of the affected area of the brain, the hippocampus. Joachim Meier’s group is studying certain processes at molecular level that play a part in the disease. A main issue is the fact that the nerve cells retrospectively change their prescribed code for producing protein, almost as though they were using Tipp-Ex. This results in abnormal proteins that influence the activity of the nerve cell.
Protein degeneration in the heart
Picture: Marcel Nowak, MDC
Group: Thomas Sommer
The picture shows a heart muscle precursor cell in the rat. The cell nucleus has been stained blue and the actin cytoskeleton green. A protein that is involved in degrading proteins that are no longer required has been labelled in yellow. It is located in small dot-like structures in the periphery of the cell nucleus.
The degrading of proteins in cells is coordinated mainly by the ubiquitin proteasome system. The protein that is to be degraded is tagged with the small protein ubiquitin; it can then be recognized by the proteasome and degraded. E3 ubiquitin ligases play an important part in this process. They bind the protein that is to be degraded and then coordinate the ubiquitin transfer. The most important E3 ubiquitin ligases in the muscle are the muscle-specific RING finger proteins (MURF). A project aimed at further characterization of the MURFs investigated, among other things, the distribution of MURF proteins in heart muscle cells.
How bowel cancer arises
Picture: Susann Förster, MDC
Group: Achim Leutz
Polyps in the intestinal mucosa are a pre-cancerous condition that can lead to bowel cancer. The formation of such polyps and of the tumor itself is triggered mainly by a Wnt signaling pathway in the cells. This picture shows a section through a human intestinal polyp with traces of healthy mucous membrane, enlarged 200 times. It uses an antibody-based staining technique (immunohistochemistry) with fluorescence labelling. Colored pink is a growth-inhibiting CCAAT/enhancer binding protein transcription factor; the green is the proto-oncoprotein beta-catenin and the blue is the cell nuclei. Cells with beta-catenin in the nucleus (light green because of the superimposition of green and blue) have an activated Wnt signaling pathway.
This fluorescent immunohistochemistry comes from a project that is investigating the carcinogenesis of colorectal cancer. The project is exploring a possible connection between the expression and tumor-suppression properties of a proliferation-inhibiting and differentiation-promoting CCAAT/enhancer binding protein transcription factor on the one hand and the Wnt signaling pathway that plays a key part in colorectal cancer and its beta-catenin signaling molecule on the other. Of particular interest are the changes in the expression strengths of the transcription factor within the carcinogenesis stages and possible correlations with the clinical behavior of the cancers.