Klaus Josef Palme received the Max Planck Research Prize for his work in the area of Plant Physiology.
Prof. Dr. Klaus Josef Palme, Institute of Biology II – Cell Biology, received the research prize for his seminal work on the mechanism of action of auxin, a key plant growth factor.
As a central transmitter of signals for elongational growth, auxin plays a key role in the development of higher plants. For example, the hormone is the cause of the growth reactions to external stimuli such as light or gravity that the organs then use to determine the direction of the plant’s growth. In addition, along with other factors auxin helps the cells to communicate with one another, thus coordinating the development of the cells to form the various parts of the plant body. Klaus Palme and his research group succeeded in using mutants of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress) to demonstrate that auxin sluices control the precise distribution of the auxin, thus also steering the plant’s growth and morphogenesis. Not only did the plant researchers confirm a few old postulates of plant physiology on the level of molecular mechanisms, they also laid the foundations for the detailed study of the morphogenesis of plants. In the future, these findings could help scientists to influence specific aspects of plant growth.