Research Group of Petra Schwille
"Bottom-up" approach of Synthetic Biology as an initial tool to understand and reconstruct the minimal prerequisites for cellular life.
Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, Martinsried
The group of Petra Schwille has a strong focus on understanding living systems down to a scale of single active and inactive molecules, such as proteins, lipids and nucleic acids.The methodological approach in the field of Synthetic Biology is the development of biophysical assays that quantitatively investigate the biomolecular dynamics associated with single molecule precision.As a starting step towards elucidating fundamental phenomena, such as self-organization and pattern formation, we focus on the study of membrane proteins in controlled lipid environments to better comprehend the relevance of local lipid structures in cellular membrane transformations, like cell division or polarity pattering.Therefore we primarily established single molecule fluorescence microscopy and spectroscopy, supplemented by force microscopy to achieve resolution far below the diffraction limit. We also utilize a selection of model membrane systems, to which we anchor cytoskeletal elements and other membrane-transforming protein machineries. The very far goal of such approaches could be the in vitro reconstitution of a self-replicating biomimetic system.