Molecular Cell Biology of Plants

Schleiff flyer

Cells are the complex building blocks that make up all life. Eukaryotic cells additional contain subunits, so-called organelles. Each of them requires a multitude of proteins in order to function. Professor Enrico Schleiff studies how these proteins are precisely distributed in the cell after their formation in the cytoplasm. His research focuses on the genesis of protein-producing ribosomes since they may play a role in determining the destination of the proteins produced. Their synthesis and distribution is regulated by a complex network of proteins, in which chaperones also participate. These chaperones assist proteins during folding and accompany them during their transport to and into various organelles (reaction compartments). Moreover, they are involved in adaptation of cellular function to changing environmental conditions. This is why Schleiff and his team also examine the functional assignment and mode of action of these important proteins.

In addition to those organelles which occur in animal cells, plant cells additionally contain chloroplasts, which are responsible for photosynthesis. Chloroplasts are surrounded by two membranes, and the mechanisms for recognising and transporting substances are correspondingly complex. In order to understand the structure, regulation and evolutionary development of plant cells, Schleiff compares the characteristics of organelles with those of cyanobacteria, which are regarded as being the predecessors of organelles. To date the team has characterised various channel proteins in the outer membrane of chloroplasts or bacteria that enable proteins and other substances to permeate the membrane. The team's analyses are based on many different methods, ranging from the molecular to the structural level.

Schleiff examines energy transfer in membranes, as well as the mode of action and structure of individual proteins in a number of biological systems. "For the analyses I always choose those organisms that allow us to find the answers to our questions most efficiently", Schleiff reports. He is extremely interested in passing on his fascination for the innovative approaches that can be employed to obtain research results to the his students and to teach them essential methodological techniques.

Brief Biography

Schleiff klein

Enrico Schleiff completed his study of Physics with a diploma thesis in biophysics on the function and structure of proteins. With a dissertation on protein transport into mitochondria, he obtained his doctorate from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Schleiff received his Habilitation in 2003 in the field of cell biology and botany at the University of Munich. He subsequently continued his research on the transport system of chloroplasts and was supported as a junior research group leader by the Volkswagen Foundation. Schleiff was appointed to a professorship at the Goethe University Frankfurt in 2007. His research on macromolecular complexes involved in protein transport forms part of the "Macromolecular Complexes" Cluster of Excellence and the "Centre of Membrane Proteomics" at the Goethe University Frankfurt.


Prof. Enrico Schleiff, PhD
Institute of Molecular
Biological Sciences
Max-von-Laue-Str. 9
60438 Frankfurt am Main
Telephone: +49 (0)69 798 29285