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Thierry Rohmer received Ernst Award for elucidating the light-switch of plants

PhD student Thierry Rohmer received the Ernst Award 2009 of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (GDCh) for his publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA on the structure-function relation of the photoreceptor phytochrome. The prize was presented at the Annual Discussion Meeting of the GDCh-Fachgruppe Magnetresonanz in Dresden in September.

In a project financed by the Volkswagen-Stiftung, Thierry worked on the understanding of the functional mechanism of the photoreceptor phytochrome by investigating different photochemically induced states by solid-state NMR spectroscopy.

Effect of light on the growth of plants

Plants, algae and bacteria respond to light in various manners. The effect of light on the growth of plants is called photomorphogenesis and is controlled by the photoreceptor protein named phytochrome. Phytochrome is formed in the dark in its inactive state and transformed upon illumination to its physiologically active state. This switching process is linked to a Z-to-E photoisomerization of its tetrapyrrole cofactor and is transduced to the protein surface modifying the interaction with other proteins in the signal chain. Details of the molecular switching process were not known. Now, Rohmer was able to study the process of the Z-to-E doublebond photoisomerization at atomic resolution. He demonstrated that the crucial process occurs at the C15-methine bridge and is linked to a change in the hydrogen-bonding network to the protein environment stabilizing and tuning both states.

Prestegious Ernst award

Prof. Dr. R. R. Ernst was the Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry 1991.
The prestigious Ernst awards are given to the three best publications written by PhD
students. The prize will be presented during the Annual discussion meeting of the
Magnetic Resonance Division of the German Chemical Society in Dresden and involve a lecture by the winners. This meeting took place at 21-24 September 2009.

Thierry Rohmer

Thierry Rohmer was born in 1978 in Schiltigheim, Elsass. He studied chemistry in Clermont-Ferrand (France) and has been from 2005 till 2009 as PhD student at the Leiden Institute of Chemistry in the group of Dr. J. Matysik.
He will defend his Thesis on 13 Oct. 2009 in Leiden.
Currently he works in the NMR-group of Dr. T. Carlomagno at the EMBL in Heidelberg.

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