Leibniz Prize - Accolade for LMU‘s Karl-Peter Hopfner

Biochemist Karl-Peter Hopfner studies how cells detect and repair the damage to their DNA. His work has now won him Germany’s most prestigious prize for research.

The magnitude of the repair job is mind-boggling: Every day, around 100,000 of the building-blocks (‘bases’) in the genomic DNA of virtually every cell in our bodies suffer damage, and are chemically altered. Left unrepaired, these alterations in our genetic material can kill cells, induce the development of tumors, precipitate premature ageing and cause congenital diseases when they occur in germ cells. However, evolution has equipped cells with highly efficient mechanisms for the repair of DNA damage.

At LMU’s Gene Center Karl-Peter Hopfner is studying the complex molecular machines that make it possible for cells to locate adventitious damage and enzymatic errors and repair or remove the modified bases. With the aid of high-resolution methodologies such as X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy, Hopfner elucidates the structures and modes of action of the molecular machines that tackle this gargantuan task. In order to develop effective treatments for disorders that result when these systems themselves are defective, detailed knowledge of their molecular form is an essential prerequisite. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) has now acknowledged Karl-Peter Hopfner’s contributions to research by awarding him a Leibniz Prize.

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