Petra Schwille

Prof. dr. Petra Schwille

Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, DE

Design features of biochemical pattern formation


The MinCDE protein machinery, wich orchestrates the positioning of the division ring in E.coli bacteria, shows a distinct oscillation of protein concentrations between the two cell poles, which are based on self-organization through reaction-diffusion. We have been able to reconstitute these self-organized oscillations of purified proteins in various biomimetic compartments, as well as some downstream effects, such as the faithful positioning of protofilaments of the Z division ring. This could be the first step towards autonomous division of an artificial cell system which we aim to establish in a bottom-up synthetic biology approach. We have further engineered the proteins with the aim of deciphering the minimal pattern-forming motifs. In my talk, I will discuss the design features of this very simple and archetypical kind of a biological oscillator and particularly highlight the role of the membrane, acting as a heterogenous catalyst and providing spatial cues in two and three dimensions.


Petra Schwille studied physics at the Universities of Stuttgart and Göttingen, and later obtained her PhD at the Braunschweig Technical University. She is currently the director or the Max-Planck-Institute of Biochemistry and holds an Honorary Professor in physics appointment at the Ludwig Maximilian University. She has obtained numerous scientific awards during her career such as the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art in 2018 and the Carl Zeiss Lecture Prize in 2020.

Her research focuses primarily on synthetic biology, single-molecule methods and cell/membrane biophysics.

Keynote speakers

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