Research Profile Prof. Dr. Ernst Bamberg

11 April 2019, - The Rumford Prize, one of the oldest sciences prizes in America, is being given to six scientists in recognition of their extraordinary contributions related to the invention and refinement of optogenetics: Ernst Bamberg, Ed Boyden, Karl Deisseroth, Peter Hegemann, Gero Miesenböck, and Georg Nagel. More...

Prof. Dr. Ernst Bamberg
  • Ph.D. Physical Chemistry, University of Basel, 1971
  • Habilitation, University of Konstanz, 1976
  • Heisenberg fellow, 1979
  • Group leader, independent research group,
    Max-Planck-Institute of Biophysics, Frankfurt, 1983
  • Apl. Professor, University of Frankfurt, 1988
  • Full Professor, Biophysical Chemistry, University of Frankfurt, 1993-2009
  • Director, Department of Biophysical Chemistry since 1993
  • Boris Rajewsky Preis für Biophysik, 1987
  • Stifterverbandspreis 2009 des Stifterverbands für die Deutsche Wissenschaft
  • Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences, 2010
  • Karl Heinz Beckurts-Preis, 2010
  • Member of the Leopoldina Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften 2011
  • K. J. Zülch-Preis 2012 der Gertrud Reemtsma Stiftung, für neurologische Grundlagenforschung
  • The Brain Prize 2013, Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation
  • Rumford Prize 2019 of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Prof. Dr. Ernst Bamberg, Director emeritus

The focus of the research the emeritus group is the functional analysis of electrogenic membrane proteins. Transporters, ion pumps as well as ion channels are under investigation. Electrical, electrophysiological and spectroscopic methods are applied.

The methodological spectrum is completed by protein purification and molecular biology approaches In order to obtain a detailed view of the transport across the membrane kinetic methods are applied to study transport and conformational dynamics of the proteins in situ and in vitro.

The main topic is the functional and structural analysis of microbial rhodopsins, which can be used as optogenetic tools. The most prominent player within this class of proteins is channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2). ChR2 was described by us as the first light-gated channel, which became a long sought tool in neurobiology, because its insertion in electrically excitable cells(neurons, muscle cells) yields the depolarization thereby the activation of the cells. Expression of ChR2 together with light-activated rhodopsin like hyperpolarizing ion pumps, allows the multimodal control of the cells in culture as well as in living animals simply by light with high spatiotemporal resolution in a minimally invasive manner. ChR2 and our newly developed analogues are used worldwide for basic neurobiological research, for biomedical applications and for drug discovery as well.

Selected Publications

Mager, T., Lopez de la Morena, D., Senn, V., Schlotte, J., D´Errico, A., Feldbauer, K., Wrobel, Ch., Jung, S., Bodensiek, K., Rankovic, V., Browne, L., Huet, A., Jüttner, J., Wood, P.G., Letzkus, J.J., Moser, T. Bamberg, E.: High frequency neural spiking and auditory signaling by ultrafast red-shifted optogenetics. Nature Communications 9, 1750 (2018)

Volkov O, Kovalev K, Polovinkin V, Borshchevskiy V, Bamann C, Astashkin R, Marin E, Popov A, Balandin T, Willbold D, Buldt G, Bamberg E, Gordeliy V (2017) Structural insights into ion conduction by channelrhodopsin 2. Science 358

Shevchenko V, Mager T, Kovalev K, Polovinkin V, Alekseev A, Juettner J, Chizhov I, Bamann C, Vavourakis C, Ghai R, Gushchin I, Borshchevskiy V, Rogachev A, Melnikov I, Popov A, Balandin T, Rodriguez-Valera F, Manstein DJ, Bueldt G, Bamberg E, Gordeliy V (2017) Inward H+ pump xenorhodopsin: Mechanism and alternative optogenetic approach. Science advances 3:e1603187

Gushchin I, Shevchenko V, Polovinkin V, Kovalev K, Alekseev A, Round E, Borshchevskiy V, Balandin T, Popov A, Gensch T, Fahlke C, Bamann C, Willbold D, Büldt G, Bamberg E, Gordeliy V. Crystal structure of a light-driven sodium pump. Nat Struct Mol Biol. (2015)(5):390-5.

Müller M, Bamann C, Bamberg E, Kühlbrandt W. Light-induced helix movements in channelrhodopsin-2. J Mol Biol. (2015) Jan 30;427(2):341-9.

Kleinlogel, S., Terpitz, U., Legrum, B., Gükbuget, D., Boyden, E.S., Bamann, C., Wood, P.G. and Bamberg, E.: A gene-fusion strategy for stoichiometric and co-localized expression of light-gated membrane proteins. Nat. Methods 8, 1083-1088. (2011).

Kleinlogel, S., Feldbauer, K., Dempski, R., Fotis, H., Wood, P., Bamann, C., and Bamberg, E.: Ultra light-sensitive and fast neuronal activation with the Ca(2+)-permeable channelrhodopsin CatCh. Nat Neurosci 13, 13 (2011).

Yonehara, K., Balint, K., Noda, M., Nagel, G., Bamberg, E. and Roska, B.: Spatially asymmetric reorganization of inhibition establishes a motion-sensitive circuit. Nature 469, 407-410 (2011).

Bamann, C., Gueta, R., Kleinlogel, S., Nagel, G. and Bamberg, E.: Structural Guidance of the Photocycle of Channelrhodopsin-2 by an Interhelical Hydrogen Bond. Biochemistry 49 (2), 267-278 (2010).

Bamann, C., Nagel, G. and Bamberg, E.: Microbial rhodopsins in the spotlight. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 20, 610-616 (2010).

Feldbauer, K., Zimmermann, D., Pintschovius, V., Spitz, J., Bamann, C., Bamberg, E.: Channelrhodopsin-2 is a leaky proton pump. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 106 12317-12322 (2009).

Zhang,F.,Wang,L.,Brauner,M,Liewald,J.Kay,K.,Watzke,N.,Wood,P.,Bamberg,E., Nagel,G.,Gottschalk,A., Deisseroth,K. (2007) Multimodal fast optical interrogation of neural circuits. Nature 446,633-639.

Boyden, E.S., Zhang,F., Bamberg,E., Nagel,G., Deisseroth,K. (2005) Millisecond-timescale, genetically targeted optical control of neural activity. Nature Neuroscience 8(9):1263-1268.

Nagel, G., Szellas, T., Huhn, W., Kateriya, S., Adeishvili, N., Berthold, P., Ollig, D., Hegemann, P., Bamberg, E. (2003). Channelrhodopsin-2, a directly Light-gated Cation-selective Membrane Channel. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 100, 13940-13945


Max Planck Institute of Biophysics

Prof. Dr. Ernst Bamberg, Director emeritus
Biophysical Chemistry
Secretary: Heidi Bergemann

Phone: +49 (0) 69 6303-2000/2001
Fax: +49 (0) 69 6303-2002

E-mail: ernst.bamberg(at)

Research group:

Group members:

Postdocs and staff scientists:

  • Christian Bamann
  • Slavoj Kresak, Visiting scientist
  • Thomas Mager
  • Philip Wood, Visiting scientist

Ph. D. Students:

  • Janina Sörmann
  • Juliane Weissbecker


  • Heike Fotis