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Welcome to the Mast + Braun lab !

Can we understand the mechanisms that lead to the Darwinian evolution of the first living molecules on the early Earth? Our experiments recreate the first steps of molecular evolution using microscale experiments. We study the nonequilibrium settings how dead molecules could be combined by physical forces into an autonomous mechanism of Darwinian evolution.

One of our focus are physical non-equilibria such as asymmetrically heated open cracks in rocks. They can host molecular evolution by an unexpected combination of molecular, thermal and fluidic effects. For example, intricate wet-dry cycles are created at fuild-gas interfaces in a thermal gradient. Also, the temperature difference induces laminar convection which thermocycles genetic molecules for replication. At the same time, polymerization and accumulation is mutually enhanced in a hyperexponential fashion. The setting also lead to physical selection of cooperating, complexing molecules from a continuous feeding flow.

In the past, we clarified the microscopic physics behind the motion of molecules in a temperature difference, studied the nonequilibrium physics of pH gradients, have established methods to driven microfluidics by light and have studied reaction kinetics in living cells all-optically.

In particular, we developed an all-optical method to measure the binding affinity of biomolecules in complex biological fluids such as serum. The former PhD students Stefan Duhr and Philipp Baaske founded the Startup company NanoTemper Technologies (Deutscher Innovationspreis 2012, Step Award 2012) that sell instruments and technology to quantify biomolecule interaction and probe enzyme activity. They have more than 140 employees


--- July 2024: Molecular Origins Munich 2024 is coming up - be invited!
--- Dez 2023: We were successful with the CRC 392 Molecular evolution in prebiotic environments !
--- June 2023: Molecular Origins Munich 2023 was a very successful virtual meeting.
--- Sept 2022: Alan Ianeselli was awarded the Euregio-JungforscherInnen Price!
--- Jul 2022: Molecular Origins Munich 2022 was happening again the real world!
--- Jul 2020: Molecular Origins Munich 2020 has been held online and was a great success!
--- Apr 2019: We got a Grant extension (4 more years) in the Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life
--- Nov 2018: We got the Technology Transfer Price of the DPG together with LMU and NanoTemper !
--- Sept 2018: Second Molecular Origins Conference
--- Sept 2018: The Cluster proposal "Origins" was successful!
--- June 2018: Our Volkswagen foundation Life! proposal with Matt Powner and Don Dingwell got funded!
--- July 2015: Start of the Origins of Life Initiative Munich, first hosting John Sutherland

Selected publications and prizes

nature_tpcHeat flows enrich prebiotic building blocks and enhance their reactivity

Thomas Matreux, Paula Aikkila, Bettina Scheu, Dieter Braun and Christof B. Mast, Nature doi.org/10.1038/s41586-024-07193-7 (2024) Welt der Physik Bild der Wissenschaft Geo Magazin Spektrum Deutschlandfunk Merkur TZ Washington Post New Scientist Newsweek LMU press release Origins cluster press release Arstechnica Space daily Phys.org Astrobiology IDW Singularity hub SINC (ES) ZAP (PT) Quibit (HU) Pulsar (PL) Sveriges Radio (SE) Haaretz (IL) Hankyung (KR) Yonhap (KR)

ligationHigh-Fidelity RNA Copying via 2′,3′-Cyclic Phosphate Ligation

Adriana C. Serrão, Sreekar Wunnava, Avinash V. Dass, Lennard Ufer, Philipp Schwintek, Christof B. Mast, and Dieter Braun, JACS doi.org/10.1021/jacs.3c10813 (2024) LMU Press release

bstReplication elongates short DNA, reduces sequence bias and develops trimer structure

Adriana C. Serrão, Felix T. Dänekamp, Zsófia Meggyesi, Dieter Braun, Nucleic Acids Research doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkad1190 (2023)

sedimentSequence self-selection by cyclic phase separation

Giacomo Bartolucci, Adriana Calaça Serrão, Philipp Schwintek, Alexandra Kühnlein, Yash Rana, Philipp Janto, Dorothea Hofer, Christof B. Mast, Dieter Braun and Christoph A. Weber, PNAS 120 (43) e2218876120 (2023)

rnatreeWhite and green rust chimneys accumulate RNA in a ferruginous chemical garden

Vanessa Helmbrecht, Maximilian Weingart, Frieder Klein, Dieter Braun, William D. Orsi, Geobiology, doi:10.1111/gbi.12572 (2023)

2dhydroAlkaline vents recreated in two dimensions to study pH gradients, precipitation morphology, and molecule accumulation

Maximilian Weingart, Siyu Chen, Clara Donat, Vanessa Helmbrecht, William D. Orsi, Dieter Braun and Karen Alim, Science Advances, doi: 10.1126/sciadv.adi1884 (2023)

dischargeReactive phosphorus via simulated lightning discharge: A role for fulgurites in pre-biotic chemistry

A. Zeynep Çalışkanoğlu, Don Dingwell, Corrado Cimarelli, Alessandra S.B. Camara, Hergen Breitzke, Gerd Buntkowsky, Matthew A. Pasek, Dieter Braun, Bettina Scheu & Karan Molaverdikhani, K, Chemical Geology, 620, 121343 doi.org/10.1016/j.chemgeo.2023.121343 (2023)

nonlinearThermophoresis beyond Local Thermodynamic Equilibrium

Daniel B. Mayer, Thomas Franosch, Christof Mast, and Dieter Braun, Physical Review Letters 130, 168202 doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.130.168202 (2023)

thermo3Thermophoretic motion of a charged single colloidal particle

Daniel B. Mayer, Dieter Braun, and Thomas Franosch, Phys. Rev. E 107, 044602 doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevE.107.044602 (2023)

sunyRibozyme-mediated RNA synthesis and replication in a model Hadean microenvironment

Annalena Salditt, Leonie Karr, Elia Salibi, Kristian Le Vay, Dieter Braun & Hannes Mutschler, Nature Communications doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-37206-4 (2023)

uvseqSequence dependent UV damage of complete pools of oligonucleotides

Corinna L. Kufner, Stefan Krebs, Marlis Fischaleck, Julia Philippou-Massier, Helmut Blum, Dominik B. Bucher, Dieter Braun, Wolfgang Zinth and Christof B. Mast, Scientific Reports doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-29833-0 (2023)

creating_ph_gradientFormation mechanism of thermally controlled pH gradients

Thomas Matreux, Bernhard Altaner, Johannes Raith, Dieter Braun, Christof Mast and Ulrich Gerland, Communications Physics doi.org/10.1038/s42005-023-01126-y (2023)

reviewPhysical non-equilibria for prebiotic nucleic acid chemistry [PDF]

Alan Ianeselli, Annalena Salditt, Christof Mast, Barbara Ercolano, Corinna Kufner, Bettina Scheu and Dieter Braun, Nature Review Physics doi.org/10.1038/s42254-022-00550-3 (2023)

polymertrapA heated rock crack captures and polymerizes primordial DNA and RNA

Christina F. Dirscherl, Alan Ianeselli, Damla Tetiker, Thomas Matreux, Robbin Queener, Christof Mast and Dieter Braun, PCCP doi.org/10.1039/D2CP04538A (2023)

rna_foamPrebiotic foam environments to oligomerize and accumulate RNA

Emre Tekin; Annalena Salditt; Philipp Schwintek; Sree Wunnava; Juliette Langlais; James Saenz; Dora Tang; Petra Schwille; Christof Mast; Dieter Braun, ChemBioChem doi.org/10.1002/cbic.202200423 (2022)

rna_polymerRNA Oligomerisation without Added Catalyst from 2′,3′‑cyclic Nucleotides by Drying at Air‑Water Interfaces

Avinash Vicholous Dass, Sreekar Wunnava, Juliette Langlais, Beatriz von der Esch, Maik Krusche, Lennard Ufer, Nico Chrisam, Romeo C. A. Dubini, Florian Gartner, Severin Angerpointner, Christina F. Dirscherl, Petra Rovó, Christof B. Mast, Judit E. Šponer, Christian Ochsenfeld, Erwin Frey, Dieter Braun, ChemSystemsChem doi.org/10.1002/syst.202200026 (2022)

fog_pcrWater cycles in a Hadean CO2 atmosphere drive the evolution of long DNA

Alan Ianeselli, Miguel Atienza, Patrick Kudella, Ulrich Gerland, Christof Mast & Dieter Braun, Nature Physics doi.org/10.1038/s41567-022-01516-z (2022)

LMU Press release New&Views: Mist and replication

coacervatesNon-equilibrium conditions inside rock pores drive fission, maintenance and selection of coacervate protocells

Alan Ianeselli, Damla Tetiker, Julian Stein, Alexandra Kühnlein, Christof B. Mast, Dieter Braun & T.-Y. Dora Tang, Nature Chemistry https://doi.org/10.1038/s41557-021-00830-y (2021)

sreew_chemeurAcid-Catalyzed RNA-Oligomerization from 3’,5’-cGMP

S. Wunnava, C.F. Dirscherl, J. Výravský, A. Kovařík, R. Matyášek, J. Šponer, D. Braun, J.E. Šponer, Chem. Eur. J. /doi.org/10.1002/chem.202103672 (2021)

prx_rosenberger_goeppelSelf-Assembly of Informational Polymers by Templated Ligation

J. H. Rosenberger, T. Göppel, P. W. Kudella, D. Braun, U. Gerland, B. Altaner, PRX doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevX.11.031055 (2021)

matreux_natchem_mgHeat flows in rock cracks naturally optimize salt compositions for ribozymes

T. Matreux, K. Le Vay, A. Schmid, P. Aikkila, L. Belohlavek, A. Z. Çalışkanoğlu, E. Salibi, A. Kühnlein, C. Springsklee, B. Scheu, D. B. Dingwell, D. Braun, H. Mutschler, C. B. Mast, Nature Chemistry doi.org/10.1038/s41557-021-00772-5 (2021)

wunnava_syschemsysNon-Enzymatic, Template-Free Polymerization of 3’,5’ Cyclic Guanosine Monophosphate on Mineral Surfaces

Judit E. Šponer, Jiří Šponer, Jakub Výravský, Ondrej Šedo, Zbyněk Zdráhal, Giovanna Costanzo, Ernesto Di Mauro, Sreekar Wunnava, Dieter Braun, Roman Matyášek, Aleš Kovařík, ChemSystemsChem doi.org/10.1002/syst.202100017 (2021)

fossilsA new model for silicification of cyanobacteria in Proterozoic tidal flats

Kelsey R. Moore, Jian Gong, Mihkel Pajusalu, Emilie J. Skoog, Megan Xu, Tania Feliz Soto, Victor Sojo, Thomas Matreux, Matthew J. Baldes, Dieter Braun, Kenneth Williford, Tanja Bosak, Geobiology doi.org/10.1111/gbi.12447 (2021)

kmst2Kinetic Microscale Thermophoresis for Simultaneous Measurement of Binding Affinity and Kinetics

Julian A. C. Stein, Alan Ianeselli, Dieter Braun, Angewandte doi.org/10.1002/ange.202101261 (2021)

eLife KühnleintRNA sequences can assemble into a replicator

Alexandra Kühnlein, Simon A Lanzmich, Dieter Braun, eLife 2021;10:e63431 doi: 10.7554/eLife.63431

PNAS KudellaStructured sequences emerge from random pool when replicated by templated ligation

Patrick Kudella, Alexei Tkachenko, Annalena Salditt, Sergei Maslov and Dieter Braun, PNAS doi:10.1073/pnas.2018830118 (2021)

See also: Did Darwinian evolution begin before life itself?

vesicle_fissionThermal Habitat for RNA Amplification and Accumulation

Annalena Salditt, Lorenz M. R. Keil, David P. Horning, Christof B. Mast, Gerald F. Joyce, and Dieter Braun
Physical Review Letters 125, 048104 (2020), doi:https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.125.048104

See also: A Jumpstart for Biochemistry

Co2_reductionCO2 reduction driven by a pH gradient

Reuben Hudson, Ruvan de Graaf, Mari Strandoo Rodin, Aya Ohno, Nick Lane, Shawn E. McGlynn, Yoichi M. A. Yamada, Ryuhei Nakamura, Laura M. Barge, Dieter Braun, and Victor Sojo
PNAS 117, 22873-22879 (2020), doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2002659117

vesicle_fissionFission of Lipid-Vesicles by Membrane Phase Transitions in Thermal Convection

Patrick W. Kudella, Katharina Preißinger, Matthias Morasch, Christina F. Dirscherl, Dieter Braun, Achim Wixforth & Christoph Westerhausen
Scientific Reports 9, 18808 (2019), doi:10.1038/s41598-019-55110-0

surface2Heated gas bubbles enrich, crystallize, dry, phosphorylate and encapsulate prebiotic molecules

M. Morasch, J. Liu, C.F. Dirscherl, A. Ianeselli, A. Kühnlein, K. Le Vay, P. Schwintek, S. Islam, M.K. Corpinot, B. Scheu, D.B. Dingwell, P. Schwille, H. Mutschler, M.W. Powner, C.B. Mast & D. Braun
Nature Chemistry(2019), doi.org/10.1038/s41557-019-0299-5

Highlight Nature, Chemistry Community, LMU Press Release

rock_pore2Periodic Melting of Oligonucleotides by Oscillating Salt Concentrations triggered by Microscale Water Cycles inside Heated Rock Pores

Alan Ianeselli, Christof B. Mast and Dieter Braun
Angewandte Chemie (2019), doi.org/10.1002/ange.201907909

symmetry_breaking2Cooperative ligation breaks sequence symmetry and stabilizes early molecular replication

Shoichi Toyabe and Dieter Braun
Physical Review X 9, 011056

edc_ligationContinuous nonenzymatic cross-replication of DNA strands with in situ activated DNA oligonucleotides

Evgeniia Edeleva, Annalena Salditt, Julian Stamp, Philipp Schwintek, Job Boekhoven and Dieter Braun
Chemical Science 10, 5807 - 5814, doi:10.1039/C9SC00770A (2019)

optical_chargeOptochemical disequilibrium to measure biomolecule charge

Friederike M. Möller, Michael Kieß, Christof Mast and Dieter Braun
Physical Review E 98, 062601 (2018) doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevE.98.062601

lorenzpaper_phtrap-01Proton Gradient and pH oscillations emerge from heat flow at the microscale

Lorenz Keil, Friederike Möller, Michael Kieß, Patrick Kudella and Christof Mast
Nature Communication 8, 1897 (2017) 

plasma_zhenyaCommon coding variant in SERPINA1 increases the risk for large artery stroke

Rainer Malika, Therese Daub, Maria Gonik, Anirudh Sivakumar, Daniel J. Deredge, Evgeniia V. Edeleva, Jessica Götzfried, Sander W. van der Laan, Gerard Pasterkamp, Nathalie Beaufort, Susana Seixas, Steve Bevan, Lisa F. Lincz, Elizabeth G. Holliday, Annette I. Burgess, Kristiina Rannikmäe, Jens Minnerup, Jennifer Kriebel, Melanie Waldenberger, Martina Müller-Nurasyid, Peter Lichtner, Danish Saleheen, International Stroke Genetics Consortium, Peter M. Rothwell, Christopher Levi, John Attia, Cathie L. M. Sudlow, Dieter Braun, Hugh S. Markus, Patrick L. Wintrode, Klaus Berger, Dieter E. Jenne, and Martin Dichgans
PNAS (2017) doi: 10.1073/pnas.1616301114

hairpin_replicatorReversible Switching of Cooperating Replicators

Georg C. Urtel, Thomas Rind and Dieter Braun Phys. Rev. Lett. 118, 078102 (2017)
doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.118.078102

Pressetext der LMU

quantitative analysis of protease_zhenyaQuantitative analysis of protease recognition by inhibitors in plasma using microscale thermophoresis

T. Dau, E. V. Edeleva, S. A. I. Seidel, R. A. Stockley, Dieter Braun & D. E. Jenne
Scientific Reports (2016) doi: 10.1038/srep35413

shallowProbing of molecular replication and accumulation in shallow heat gradients through numerical simulations

Lorenz Keil, Michael Hartmann, Simon Lanzmich and Dieter Braun
PCCP (2016) doi: 10.1039/C6CP00577B

pmePhotochemical microscale electrophoresis allows fast quantification of biomolecule binding

Friederike M. Möller, Michael Kieß, Dieter Braun
JACS (2016) doi: 10.1021/jacs.6b01756

baazHeat-Flow-Driven Oligonucleotide Gelation Separates Single-Base Differences

Matthias Morasch, Dieter Braun, and Christof B. Mast
Angewandte Chemie (2016) doi: 10.1002/anie.201603779


fiber_thermophoresisQuantitative thermophoretic study of disease-related protein aggregates

Manuel Wolff, Judith Mittag, Therese Herling, Erwin De Genst, Christopher Dobson, Tuomas Knowles, Dieter Braun, Alexander Buell
Scientific Reports (2016) doi:10.1038/srep22829


sheet_microscopySingle molecule imaging in living Drosophila embryos with reflected light-sheet microscopy

Ferdinand Greiss, Myrto Deligiannaki, Christophe Jung, Ulrike Gaul, Dieter Braun
Biophysical Journal (2016) doi 10.1016/j.bpj.2015.12.035



thermal_sieveThermooptical molecule sieve on the microscale

Natan Osterman and Dieter Braun
Applied Physics Letters (2015) doi 10.1063/1.4907357


wurstUnderstanding the similarity in thermophoresis between single- and double-stranded DNA or RNA

Maren Reichl, Mario Herzog, Ferdinand Greiss, Manuel Wolff, and Dieter Braun
Physical Review E 91,062709 (2015), doi:10.1103/PhysRevE.91.062709


replication_selectionHeat flux across an open pore enables the continuous replication and selection of oligonucleotides towards increasing length

Moritz Kreysing, Lorenz Keil, Simon Lanzmich and Dieter Braun
Nature Chemistry (2015) doi:10.1038/nchem.2155
News in ScienceMag, News and Views by Irene Chen, Science's Editors Choice, Chemistry World, Science Daily, Scinexx, Nature World News, Tech Times, Press release, Radio Eins, Der Spiegel, Deutschlandfunk.



grunderpreis Stefan Duhr and Philipp Baaske

with their Team won the Gründerpreis in the category "Aufsteiger"
for the NanoTemper Technologies Startup. Congratulations!


cellthermoThermophoretic Manipulation of Molecules Inside Living Cells

Maren R. Reichl and Dieter Braun
JACS 136, 15955–15960 (2014) doi:10.1021/ja506169b
Article on Phys.org


simonsOur lab was able to win funding ($1.500.000 over five years) by the
Collaboration on the Origins of Life Investigator Award!

The competition was stiff: 2 out of 140 were funded.

electro_thermophoresisWhy charged molecules move across a temperature gradient: the role of electric fields

Maren Reichl, Mario Herzog, Alexandra Götz and Dieter Braun
Physical Review Letters 112, 198101 (2014)
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.198101
Synopsis in PRL, Press release.

cgmpDry polymerization of 3',5'-cyclic GMP to long strands of RNA

Matthias Morasch, Christof Mast, Johannes Langer, Pierre Schilcher and Dieter Braun, ChemBioChem 15, 879–883 (2014), doi: 10.1002/cbic.201300773



lebendiges_NGGÜbersichtsartikel: Lebendiges Nichtgleichgewicht

Christof Mast, Friederike M. Möller und Dieter Braun
Physik Journal 10, 29 (2013) [PDF]
RadioWissen broadcast on the Origin of Life [22Min.]



polymerization_trapEscalation of Polymerization in a Thermal Gradient

Christof B. Mast, Severin Schink, Ulrich Gerland and Dieter Braun
PNAS 110, 8030-8035 (2013), doi:10.1073/pnas.1303222110 [PDF]
Beitrag im Deutschlandfunk

step_award Stefan Duhr and Philipp Baaske

with their Team managed to win the 100.000 Euro STEP Award for the NanoTemper Technologies Startup. Congratulations!

labelfreeLabel-Free Microscale Thermophoresis Discriminates Sites and Affinity of Protein–Ligand Binding [PDF]

Susanne Seidel, Christoph J. Wienken, Sandra Geissler, Moran Jerabek-Willemsen, Stefan Duhr, Alwin Reiter, Dirk Trauner, Dieter Braun, Philipp Baaske, Angewandte Chemie 51, 10656–10659 (2012), DOI: 10.1002/anie.201204268 (2012)

ahaThermal, Autonomous Replicator Made from Transfer RNA

Hubert Krammer, Friederike M. Möller, and Dieter Braun
PRL 108, 238104 (2012). DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.238104
Links: APS Synopsis

innovation Stefan Duhr and Philipp Baaske

with their Team managed to win the Deutsche Innovationspreis for the NanoTemper Technologies Startup. Congratulations!

lippok Direct Detection of Antibody Concentration and Affinity in Human Serum Using Microscale Thermophoresis

Svenja Lippok, Susanne A. I. Seidel, Stefan Duhr, Kerstin Uhland, Hans-Peter Holthoff, Dieter Jenne and Dieter Braun
Analytical Chemistry 84, 3523–3530 (2012). DOI:10.1021/ac202923j

rnareactorEmergence of Information Transmission in a Prebiotic RNA Reactor

Benedikt Obermayer, Hubert Krammer, Dieter Braun, and Ulrich Gerland
PRL 107, 018101 (2011). DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.018101
Links: APS Viewpoint, PhysOrg

gpcrPeptide surfactants for cell-free production of functional G-protein-coupled receptors

Xiaoqiang Wang, Karolina Corina, Philipp Baaske, Christoph J. Wienken, Moran Jerabek-Willemsen, Stefan Duhr, Dieter Braun, and Shuguang Zhang
PNAS 108, 9049-9054 (2011)

mstnatcomProtein-binding assays in biological liquids using microscale thermophoresis [PDF]

Christoph J. Wienken, Philipp Baaske, Ulrich Rothbauer, Dieter Braun and Stefan Duhr
Nature Communications 1, 100 (2010)
Links: Bionity, Research Highlight Nature Methods

replication_trapThermal Trap for DNA Replication [PDF]

Christof B. Mast and Dieter Braun
Physical Review Letters 104, 188102 (2010)
Press: Physics Today, FAZ, Nano 3Sat, Movie:Focus Online, Der Standard, Sueddeutsche, New Scientist, SciNexx

binding_aptamerOptical Thermophoresis for Quantifying the Buffer Dependence of Aptamer Binding [PDF]

Philipp Baaske, Christoph J. Wienken, Philipp Reineck, Stefan Duhr, Dieter Braun, Angewandte Chemie 49, 2238-2241 (2010)
Press: Deutschlandfunk (Radio)

imaging_kineticsHybridization Kinetics is Different Inside Cells [PDF]

Ingmar Schoen, Hubert Krammer and Dieter Braun
PNAS 106, 21649–21654 (2009)

molecular_conveyorAn Optical Conveyor for Molecules [PDF]

Franz M. Weinert and Dieter Braun
Nano Letters 9, 4264-4267 (2009)

Hydrothermal_AccumulationFrom the cover:
Extreme Accumulation of Nucleotides in Simulated Hydrothermal Pore Systems

Philipp Baaske, Franz M. Weinert, Stefan Duhr, Kono H. Lemke, Michael J. Russell, Dieter Braun
PNAS 104, 9346–9351 (2007)

[Commentary by Eugene V. Koonin, PNAS 104, 9105-9106 (2007)]

ThermophoresisFrom the cover:
Why molecules move along a temperature gradient

Stefan Duhr and Dieter Braun
PNAS 103, 19678–19682 (2006)

[Commentary by Dean Astumian, PNAS 104, 3-4 (2007)]

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