Research Groups

Welcome to the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences
The Institute was founded in 2009 as part of the Cluster of Excellence Frankfurt Molecular Complexes (CEF). We aim at understanding macromolecular complexes, in particular the molecular mechanisms underlying cellular functions. The Institute is composed of twelve scientific groups from various disciplines including biology, physics, chemistry, and medicine. We are dedicated to perform basic research with biomedical relevance, to train young scientists, and to develop frontier technologies in life sciences.


6th Jan 2015    Dialkylresorcinols as bacterial signaling molecules

Bacteria can communicate with each other via small diffusible molecules to mediate group coordinated interactions and thus develop potentially pathogenic effects. The research teams led by Helge B. Bode, Merck Endowed Professor of Molecular Biotechnology at Goethe University Frankfurt and Ralf Heermann, lecturer at the Department of Microbiology at the Ludwig Maximilian University Munich have now deciphered a second previously unknown and widespread chemical type of bacterial communication... Read more

6th Jan 2015    PLEKHM1: A Multifunctional Adaptor for the Endolysosomal System

As reported in this month's issue of Molecular Cell and Cell Host & Microbe, an international team of researchers led by Ivan Dikic has shed light on the molecular function of the protein PLEKHM1, that has previously been shown to regulate bone density in humans and rats. The team has identified two novel functions for the protein that are importan... Read more

2nd Jan 2015    Light sheet-based fluorescence microscopy is the Nature Method of the Year 2014

Light-sheet fluorescence microscopy (LSFM, SPIM, DSLM) enables relatively gentle imaging of biological samples with high resolution in three dimensions and over long periods of time. Especially when combined with high-speed cameras, it is fast enough to capture cellular or subcellular dynamics. For its potential for fast, relatively gentle, volumetric imaging of biological samples, light-sheet fluorescence microscopy was chosen as Nature Method of the Year 2014. Read more

15th Dez 2014    New approach to modifying functional properties of rhodopsin optogenetic tools – via the retinal chromophore, not the protein

Since their discovery in 2003, rhodopsin optogenetic tools are widely used in neurobiology. Many variants of these proteins were introduced, all based on mutagenesis or engineering of the protein backbones. In a joint effort, the group of Jana Liewald and Alexander Gottschalk, together with Hegemann (Berlin), Fiala (Göttingen) and Trauner (Munich) have developed a novel approach to alter the functional properties of rhodopsin optogenetic tools, namely by modifications of the retinal chromophore. Synthetic retinal analogs were introduced into Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) or other rhodopsin tools in C. elegans, Drosophila and human cells, to change the light sensitivity, photo cycle kinetics and color spectrum of the optogenetic actuators. The work is going to be published in Nature Communications on Monday, 15th December, 2014. Read more

12th Nov 2014    1st BMLS student symposium

On 12th Nov 2014, BMLS students met in the 1st BMLS Student Symposium. It was the first time when BMLS students organized a symposium only for students (PhD students, Post-Docs, Master and Bachelor students), giving the opportunity to practice conference-like situations, networking and having scientific discussions. In the first part of the symposium seven talks were given by PhD students from several groups. The second part was a poster presentation where eleven authors presented their poster in a two minute short presentation followed by a poster session. At the end of the event a prize (kindly donated by BMLS group leaders) for the best talk with the title "Of Oranges and Cherries, Emeralds and Rubies" was awarded to Frederic Strobl from the group of Ernst Stelzer. The prize for the best poster with the title "The Role of Reelin in the Blood Brain Barrier" was awarded to Victor-Valentin Hodirnau from the group of Achilleas Frangakis. About 50 participants contributed to this successful event. BMLS students are looking forward to organize similar events in the future.

5th Nov 2014    Visit of Birgitta Wolff

The future President of Goethe University Frankfurt, Professor Birgitta Wolff, visited the Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (BMLS) on 5th Nov 2014 on invitation from BMLS director Enrico Schleiff. The scientists were delighted to welcome Birgitta Wolff and to introduce her to their research, building and laboratories. The international and highly interdisciplinary institute on Riedberg Campus in Frankfurt currently hosts thirteen research groups with a total of 170 staff from over twenty countries. During her half day visit Birgitta Wolff met with professors, junior group leaders, postdocs, PhD students and technical-administrative staff. All involved very much enjoyed the visit and the constructive discussions. The enthusiasm of the scientists for their research and the high-tech state of the art laboratories specifically made an impression. BMLS members were only too happy to answer Birgitta Wolff’s questions ranging from science over job opportunities to technical details. The future president showed a particular interest in the younger scientists. BMLS very much thanks her for her interest and wishes her great success in the new position.
Foto: Goethe-Universität Frankfurt/ Uwe Dettmar

29th Sep 2014    Breakthrough in liver cancer - New mutation causing early onset liver cancer detected

A multidisciplinary, international team led by C. Kubisch (Ulm University), K. Ramadan (Oxford University), J. Terzic (Split University), D. Amor (University of Melbourne) and I. Dikic (Goethe University in Frankfurt) reports in today's online issue of Nature Genetics the discovery of a hitherto unknown mutation causing early onset liver cancer.

Read more

25th Aug 2014    Ivan Dikic to become a Vallee Visiting Professor at Harvard Medical School

Alexa Mason, CEO Vallee foundation and Ivan Dikic at the Foundation Symposium, Boston 2014
The Vallee Foundation announced the appointment of six new Vallee Visiting Professors (VVPs), who will receive the resources to spend one month at a premier biomedical research institute of their choice. Besides Ivan Dikic, the award goes to Bonnie Bassler, Chris Dobson, Tyler Jacks, Thomas Shenk and Andreas Strasser this year. Since 1997, 47 VVPs have been appointed, and the program has been a great success in fostering intellectual exchange, building scientific partnerships and kicking off exciting new projects. Ivan Dikic will join Harvard Medical School in 2015 for his VVP sabbatical.
More info here
For ASBMB PDF click here

1st June 2014    BMLS opens its doors to the general public as part of the open day on Riedberg Campus

The Week of Science on Riedberg Campus from 1-6 June 2014 forms part of the Goethe University's program to celebrate its 100th anniversary. BMLS opened its doors to the general public as part of the "Open Sunday" on 1 June 2014. The day started with a wonderful sunny morning and the opening of the University's new science garden. This was followed by a varied program of activities, including seminars, exhibitions, tours, live music and activities for all ages at the different departments and institutes located on the Riedberg.
Read more

30th May 2014    100 Years Goethe University − Uni Cup Rowing Regatta

In the context of "100 Years Goethe University" and the "5th Frankfurter Ruderfest" a challenching rowing regatta has been organized by Prof. Enrico Schleiff (Goethe University), Kaan Erkinay (GU) and Oliver Palme (Frankfurter Regatta Verein).
Read more

26th May 2014    Non-invasive long-term fluorescence live imaging of Tribolium castaneum embryos.

During the last years, Tribolium castaneum has emerged as the second most important insect model organism trailing Drosophila melanogaster. However, previous fluorescence live imaging attempts addressed only particular issues and covered only short time periods. In the current issue of Development, Frederic Strobl and Ernst Stelzer provide a protocol for the non-invasive long-term fluorescence live imaging of Tribolium castaneum embryos. They document, for the first time, the complete embryonic morphogenesis process continuously in one embryo and along four orientations discovering a new transient structure on the extraembryonic membrane – the serosa scar.
Link to publication
Link to YouTube video “Imaging embryogenesis in the beetle Tribolium”

Frankfurt, April 25 2014    HFSP Program Grant for BMLS.

The International Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) Organization announced this year's winners of the competition for one of the prestigious HFSP research grants. Amongst the awardees is the Dikic group at the BMLS, who together with the Sidhu group (Canada), the Komatsu group (Japan) and the Sander group (U.S.) will receive 1,35 M USD for the next 3 years. "This award considerably pushes autophagy research in Frankfurt, especially because it funds one of our most innovative projects. Within the next 3 years, we expect to gain a lot of knowledge about molecular targeting of the autophagy network", says Ivan Dikic, IBCII director and founding director of the BMLS. Read more

11th April 2014    Amparo Acker Palmer will join the MPI for Brain Research as a Max Planck Fellow.

Amparo Acker Palmer will join the MPI as a Max Planck Fellow, effective July 1st, 2014. The Max Planck Fellow Program promotes cooperation between outstanding university professors and Max Planck Society researchers. The appointment of university professors as Max Planck Fellows is limited to a five-year period and also entails the supervision of a small working group at a Max Planck Institute.

10th April 2014    The control of signaling in immunity and inflammation.

The groups of Ivan Dikic and Masato Akutsu have moved closer in understanding how a novel form of protein modification, the linear ubiquitination, controls central pathways of immunity and inflammation. In a collaborative effort, they showed that the two enzymes responsible for assembling and disassembling linear ubiquitin chains are contained in one complex. By structural analysis, they managed to decipher the molecular details of the interaction between these two key enzymes and were able to show how the opposing activities of the complex are controlled. Their results are published in the current edition of Molecular Cell online

18th March 2014    German Society for Cell Biology honours Ernst Stelzer.

Ernst Stelzer received the "Carl Zeiss Lecture 2014" at the International Meeting of the German Society for Cell Biology in Regensburg.
The Society awards this prize for internationally outstanding achievements in the field of light and electron microscopy. Ernst Stelzer's development and patents for light sheet microscopy have led to a new fluorescence microscopy system being now available to scientists worldwide. Link to ZEISS press release

25th Feb 2014    New piece in the puzzle of neuronal communication.

Detailed knowledge of the mechanisms that underlie neuronal communication is essential to better understand brain function and pathological conditions. Neurons can modulate their signal input not only by altering the area covered by their dendritic trees, but also by adapting the strength of their synapses. Regulation of cargo transport via adaptor molecules is essential for neuronal development. However, the role of PDZ scaffolding proteins as adaptors in neuronal cargo trafficking is still poorly understood. Read more...

10th Feb 2014    BMLS scientists Deepika Singh and Christian Pohl uncover a biomechanical mechanism for embryonic patterning.

Early embryos need to generate a specific coordinate system to develop properly. In the last issue of Developmental Cell, BMLS scientists Deepika Singh and Christian Pohl now uncover a biomechanical mechanism that helps to form one axis in this coordinate system. This mechanism uses a remnant of cell division to orient cells along this axis. Link to publication

18th Dec 2013    Three new group leaders will start their groups in 2014.

Just before Christmas three group leaders signed their contracts for starting their first independent groups at BMLS. Dr Anja Bremm (left) who received a prestigious Emmy Noether Fellowship from the German Research Foundation (DFG), Dr Masato Akutsu (second from left) who will be heading a group endowed by the Leibniz Prize awarded to Ivan Dikic (right) by the DFG, and Dr Kathi Zarnack (third from left) who will be funded through the LOEWE program 'Ubiquitin networks'. Both Kathi Zarnack and Masato Akutsu will also be supported by a donation from the Buchmann Foundation. All three will start their groups in 2014, Anja Bremm mainly concentrating on cellular signaling, Masato Akutsu strengthening the structural biology platform, and Kathi Zarnack establishing the first bioinformatics group.

5th Dec 2013    Structure of HOIP catalytic core solved.

In collaboration with Katrin Rittinger at the MRC-NIMR in London, the Dikic group solved a molecular puzzle about the formation of specific Ubiquitin chains. In the current issue of Nature, they report the crystal structure of the catalytic core of HOIP, the critical enzymes involved in forming linear (Met1-linked) Ubiquitin chains. These chains are important regulators of cellular signalling, and knowing the molecular structure of the complexes involved is an important step forward to understanding how these pathways control innate immunity and inflammation.
Link to nature publication

27th Nov 2013    Ernst Stelzer awarded Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Microscopical Society.

The Royal Microscopical Society (RMS) is to award Ernst Stelzer the Honorary Fellowship of the Society for his contribution to the development of confocal microscopy. Ernst Stelzer will receive his honorary fellowship at the Microscience Microscopy Congress in July 2014 where he will also be giving the plenary talk.
The RMS will be celebrating its 175th Anniversary in 2014. Honorary Fellowships are bestowed to a limited number of scientists by the RMS for eminence in microscopy or related branches of science or for exceptional service to science. Further information on the RMS read more

10th June 2013    Visit of Hessian Minister Michael Boddenberg.

Left: Prof. Frangakis explaining the Titan Krios electron microscope to Minister Boddenberg, middle: Minister Boddenberg observing movements of the worm C. elegans , right: Prof. Stelzer, Minister Boddenberg, Prof. Dötsch (from left)
As part of the 'Research Awareness Weeks', Hessian Minister of Federal Affairs, Michael Boddenberg, took a tour around the Buchmann Institute and the Center for Biomagnetic Resonance. He was impressed by the setup of equipment and technologies on Riedberg Campus.

8th January 2013    BMLS director Ivan Dikic to receive Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine.

The Jung Foundation for Science and Research announced that Ivan Dikic will receive the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine 2013 for his groundbreaking work in understanding the role of Ubiquitin in cellular signal regulation. The prize is awarded with 150,000 € and will be presented at a ceremony on 3rd May in Hamburg. Read more.

6th December 2012
Leibniz Prize 2013 for BMLS director Ivan Dikic.

In recognition of his fundamental contribution to decrypting the Ubiquitin code, Ivan Dikic is to receive the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize 2013, Germany`s most prestigious scientific award. The award is funded and presented by the German Research Foundation (DFG). It is the research price with the highest endowment worldwide and comes with a grant of 2.5 M €.
Read more.

10th September 2012
BMLS Group Leader wins ERC Starting Grant.

Martin Vabulas was awarded with one of the prestigious grants for early-career researchers, enabling him to carry out his ambitious MetaMeta project. The project studies the metastability of proteins during tumor metastasis and will now be endowed with € 1.4 M for the next 5 years. Link to Goethe University press release and ERC press release.
Read more.

27th August 2012
Renaming of the Institute is celebrated in a festive ceremony.

As a sign of gratitude to the Frankfurt businessmann and patron Dr. h.c. Josef Buchmann, the Institute has been named Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences. Josef Buchmann has been a generous supporter of the Goethe University for more than 25 years, and has recently also sponsored the Institute substantially, enabling the recruitment of further young academics to the Riedberg campus. Link to German press release.
Read more.

Amparo Acker-Palmer 10th August 2012
BMLS scientist Amparo Acker-Palmer elected as new member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.

Acker-Palmer's research concentrates on the parallels of network formation during vascularization and neuronal development. She was recruited to Frankfurt by the Cluster of Excellence in 2007 and is a group leader in BMLS since 2010. Link to
German press release

1st August 2012
2013 ASBMB William C. Rose Award goes to BMLS Director Ivan Dikic

The Award honors the pioneering work of Ivan Dikic in understanding the Ubiquitin code, and his efforts in training and education of young scientists.

Link to Press Release

More about Ivan Dikic
Online link

18th July 2012
A new toolkit for monitoring endogenous Ubiquitin.

BMLS scientists developed specific Ubiquitin biosensors for in vivo application. This approach might mark a major technical breakthrough in detection of Ubiquitin signals in living cells. It is published in today's online issue of Molecular Cell. Link to
full article
or Read more.

15th June 2010
CEF successful in new round of Excellence Initiative.

The Joint Commission of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the German Council of Science and Humanities announced today that the Cluster of Excellence Frankfurt Macromolecular Complexes (CEF) will receive funding in the 2nd phase of the German Excellence Initiative. The Buchmann Institute was founded as part of the CEF in 2009, and the continuation of CEF will boost further excellent research at the Institute.
Read more.

7th February 2012
Sponsorship of FMLS by Josef Buchmann sealed.

The Frankfurt businessman and patron Josef Buchmann is supporting the FMLS with a substantial donation. As a sign of gratitude and to underscore the important role of Josef Buchmann and his wife Bareket in supporting research at the Goethe University, the FMLS will henceforth be named Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences. Link to
German press release.

February 2011
Lígia Gomes receives a long-term FEBS fellowship and commences her work within the Dikic/Dötsch group at the FMLS.

Her project is focused on the regulation of selective autophagy. FEBS is funding her position for one year, with the option of renewal to up to 3 years.

January 2012
Volker Dötsch receives € 1M for Reinhart Kosseleck Project

he FMLS Vice Director and Professor at the Institute of Biophysical Chemistry of the Goethe University Frankfurt has been granted € 1 M by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) for a project building on his previously published results on genetic quality control in oocytes. Read more about this research area. Link to
German Press Release.

January 2012
Martin Grininger joins the FMLS

Following his successful application for a Lichtenberg Professorship of the Volkswagen Foundation, Martin Grininger has moved from the MPI of Biochemistry in Munich to establish his new group at the FMLS. His research is focussed on Megasynthases. These protein complexes produce bioactive natural products in various microorganisms, which are often applied as antibiotics. Martin Grininger aims to copy the natural pathways for the synthesis of new pharmaceutical drugs.

December 2011
Award-winning video

PhD student Daniel von Wangenheim from the Stelzer Group wins the 2nd prize in the 2011 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition. His video shows a Arabidopsis thaliana lateral root growing out of the primary root. A stack of 233 images was recorded every 15 minutes over a period of 75 hours using light-sheet based fluorescence microscopy (mDSLM). Link to

16th December 2011
Opening Ceremony

for the FMLS, Biologicum and Otto-Stern-Zentrum on Riedberg campus - link to livestream, to German press release, and to the scientific symposium which took place in the morning to mark the day.
Read more.

1st December 2011
New group leader recruited

Dr Christian Pohl has moved from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York/USA to join the FMLS. His research is focussed on embryonal development in the worm C. elegans, aiming at understanding the molecular mechanisms of head morphogenesis. With the recruitment of Dr Pohl, research into developmental cell biology is substantially strengthened at the FMLS.
Read more.

November 2011
Simin Rahighi receives an EMBO longterm postdoctoral fellowship

EMBO will fund her work for the next two years. Her proposal is focused on understanding the role of linear ubiquitylation in regulation of apoptotic cell death.

20th October 2011
Volker Dötsch elected to EMBO membership

I The FMLS Vice Director and Professor at the Institute of Biophysical Chemistry of the Goethe University Frankfurt has been elected by EMBO as one of 46 new members from 14 countries. By awarding life-long membership, EMBO acknowledges the outstanding scientific contribution of Volker Dötsch and his commitment to research excellence.
Read more.

August 2011
Completion of FMLS building

After only two years of construction time, the new FMLS building has now been finished. Seven groups from a wide range of disciplines have moved in already, creating a vibrant scientific atmosphere. The building offers excellent conditions for cutting edge research in Life Sciences, bridging the gaps between Physics, Biology, and Chemistry. It houses a first-class Electron Microscopy Facility, a dedicated Crystal Facility, and the Frankfurt Centre for Advanced Light Microscopy (FCAM).
Link to webcam

30th June 2011
Chaperone system resolved

Newly synthesized proteins are fragile and could never reach their proper functional state and their correct destination without the protection of chaperones. As reported in the latest online issue of Science, FMLS deputy director Volker Dötsch was now involved in solving the molecular mechanisms of one such system.
Read more.

26th May 2011
New defense mechanism against Salmonella elucidated

After infection with Salmonella, epithelial cells can get rid of the unwanted invader by a process called autophagy. In today's issue of the journal Science, an international group of scientists around FMLS director Ivan Dikic describes how selectivity is achieved in this process.
Read more.

6th April 2011
The world's smallest wedding rings

FMLS scientist Alexander Heckel and his PhD student Thorsten Schmidt succeed in creating two interlocking rings of DNA only 18 nanometers in size. Such a structure is called a catenan, and it sets a milestone in the field of DNA nanotechnology.
Read more.

1st April 2011
New group leader recruited

Dr Martin Vabulas from the MPI of Biochemistry in Martinsried will join the FMLS in April 2011. Martin Vabulas is an expert in proteasome function and protein quality control mechanisms. His group aims at identifying molecular events which lead to the collapse of the protein network in diseases like Alzheimer's and during aging.
Read more.

31st March 2011
A step towards understanding chronic dermatitis

An international team of scientists led by FMLS director Ivan Dikic discovered a novel role for the protein SHARPIN in immune signalling. In today's issue of Nature, they show how SHARPIN stimulates formation of linearized ubiquitin chains, triggering activation of a central regulator of immune responses.
Read more.

21st March 2011
Japan Tsunami Appeal

The FMLS & CEF Offices are collecting donations for the Japanese Red Cross Society until the end of March. If you wish to participate in this effort, please visit the office or use the following links to find information of how to donate directly to the Japanese Red Cross or to the German Red Cross.

18th February 2011
Fatal quality control in oocytes

Maintaining genomic stability in the female germline is extremely important for all species. Together with others, the group of FMLS scientist Volker Dötsch has now revealed how the activity of quality control factor p63 is regulated in oocytes. Upon DNA damage, conformation of the protein changes to an active tetramer, initiating death of damaged oocytes. Their results are published today in the journal Cell.
Read more.

16th January 2011
Directing worms with light

FMLS scientist Alexander Gottschalk has shown for the first time how the movement of an animal can be reliably and precisely directed through light impulses. The new technology was published online today in Nature Methods.
Read more
or watch video.

24th November 2010
One ubiquitin, 1000s of partners

Ubiquitin signals and ubiquitin-binding domains are implicated in almost every cellular process. But how is this wide spectrum of functionality achieved? How does ubiquitin find the correct target? Ivan Dikic and colleagues reviewed technological advances in monitoring the dynamics and specificity of ubiquitin networks in the journal Cell. Read more or listen to interview with Prof Ivan Dikic.

6th December 2012
Frankfurt researcher is admitted to the German Academy of Sciences.

Ivan Dikic, Scientific Director of the CEF-funded FMLS, is elected a member of the Leopoldina

Upcoming Events

9 February 2015, 17:00
CEF/BMLS Lecture Series
Kathrin Lang, Technische Universität München
"Applications of an expanded genetic code - novel methods for labelling proteins"
Host: Anja Bremm
lecture hall H1, Biologicum,
Riedberg Campus, Goethe University,
Max von Laue Str. 13,
60438 Frankfurt am Main

22 September 2014, 17:00
CEF/BMLS Seminar
"Damage Control: role of PINK1, Parkin and mitochondrial autophagy in Parkinson's Disease"
Richard Youle, NINDS Porter Neuroscience Research Center, USA
Biologicum, Campus Riedberg, Goethe University, Max von Laue Str. 13, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, lecture hall 1, B‐1.202


Open Positions

Lab Manager/in bzw. Technischen Assistenten/in

PhD positions in computational biology/bioinformatics


Anja Sälzer
Administrative Manager
Tel: +49 (0)69 798-42501

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