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Max Planck Institute, Germany

Exploring the molecular architecture of photosynthetic organelles with cryo-electron tomography


Cells accomplish the biochemical reactions of life by concentrating their proteins into a variety of subcellular compartments called organelles. Our group explores the relationship between the form of the organelle and the function of its resident macromolecules. How does organelle architecture direct molecular function, and reciprocally, how do macromolecules sculpt and shape organelles? To investigate these questions, we use focused ion beam (FIB) milling of frozen cells followed by cryo-electron tomography to image macromolecules within their native cellular environment. Through a combination of nanometer-precision localization and high-resolution structural analysis, we aim to chart the molecular landscapes of organelles.
In this talk, we will explore the molecular architecture of light-harvesting thylakoid membranes in cyanobacteria, green algae, and plants (Rast et al., 2019; Wietrzynski et al., 2020). I will also describe our recent work on Vesicle-Inducing Protein in Plastids (VIPP1), a conserved membrane-remodeling protein that is required for thylakoid biogenesis and maintenance (Gupta et al., 2021). We will then journey through to the pyrenoid, a carbon-fixing subcompartment of the chloroplast that is formed by liquid-liquid phase separation (Freeman Rosenzweig et al., 2017; He et al., 2020). Biography:
Ben Engel received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley and performed his Ph.D. studies with Wallace Marshall at the University of California, San Francisco. After spending the first three decades of his life in the Bay Area, he said goodbye to USA, and moved to Munich, Germany. From 2011 to 2019, he was a postdoc and project group leader in the department of Wolfgang Baumeister at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry. In 2019, he started an independent research group at the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus on the Helmholtz Munich campus. In 2022, the Engel lab moved to the Biozentrum at the University of Basel, Switzerland. Ben is currently an assistant professor and a member of the EMBO Young Investigator Program. To learn more about the group and research, visit the Engel lab website:     Join zoom meeting:

Meeting ID: 994 3575 6388Passcode: zy1Zys8NUE

Wednesday, 12 October, 2022 - 12:30 to 13:30