Marcus Jahnel Group

Dynamics of Biomolecules

Portrait Marcus Jahnel

Our Research Mission

The molecular world, where nothing ever stands still, poses some intriguing challenges to our understanding of living matter. How do molecules robustly self-organize into compartments, transmit signals or generate forces in the omnipresence of thermal fluctuations? How are decisions made reliably on that level? And how can tiny molecular changes lead to significant effects for an organism on different length and time scales?

Our team works at the intersection of molecular cell biology and polymer physics, and we are fascinated by the emergent molecular behavior of Life's building blocks. We see proteins and RNAs as multifaceted actors that readily adopt roles as information carriers, as structural materials, as complex fluids, as molecular thermometers, as choreographers, as timekeepers, soft machines, and sometimes all at once. This fascinating molecular universe offers a rich playground to expand both our understanding of physics and biology.

To investigate the dynamic nature of Life's molecules, we employ a captivating property of light: it can be used to exert and measure minute forces, forces so small that it allows us to study and manipulate individual molecular players with precision. In essence, we use the Physics of Light to study the Physics of Life.

Selected Publications

Murray DH, Jahnel M, Lauer J, Avellaneda MJ, Brouilly N, Cezanne A, Morales-Navarrete H, Perini ED, Ferguson C, Lupas AN, Kalaidzidis Y, Parton RG, Grill SW, Zerial M
An endosomal tether undergoes an entropic collapse to bring vesicles together.
Nature 537, 107–111 (2016)

Patel A, Lee HO, Jawerth L, Maharana S, Jahnel M, Hein MY, Stoynov S, Mahamid J, Saha S, Franzmann TM, Pozniakovski A, Poser I, Maghelli N, Royer LA, Weigert M, Myers EW, Grill S, Drechsel D, Hyman AA, Alberti S
A Liquid-to-Solid Phase Transition of the ALS Protein FUS Accelerated by Disease Mutation.
Cell, 162:5, 1066–1077 (2015)

Franzmann TM, Jahnel M, Pozniakovsky A, Mahamid J, Holehouse AS, Nüske E, Richter D, Baumeister W, Grill SW, Pappu RV, Hyman AA, Alberti S
Phase separation of a yeast prion protein promotes cellular fitness.
Science 359:6371 (2018)

Jahnel M, Behrndt M, Jannasch A, Schäffer E, Grill SW
Measuring the complete force field of an optical trap.
Optics Letters 36:7, 1260–1262 (2011)

Lisica A, Engel C, Jahnel M, Roldán É*, Galburt EA, Cramer P, Grill SW
Mechanisms of backtrack recovery by RNA polymerases I and II.
PNAS 113 (11) 2946–2951 (2016)