Research

Our research focusses on basic mechanisms of epigenetic regulation on the level of cells and organism. A specific focus is on DNA-methylation, however the group also investigates chromatin dynamics using NOME-Seq, ATAC-Seq and ChIP-Seq. The group uses and develops cutting edge NGS based technologies at single molecule (and ideally single cell resolution) and develops novel bioinformatic tools and strategies for data interpretation.

The research is linked to the following core questions:

How are genomes epigenetically programmed during development and differentiation?

Which enzymatic processes regulate the dynamics and inheritance of epigenetic states?

Which epigenetic changes are characteristic for diseased cells/organs and can we exploit them for personalized diagnosis?

DNA methylation of cytosine bases plays a fundamental role in mammalian development and in human diseases. It is an essential epigenetic signal regulating gene expression, genome organization and genome stability. DNA-methylation can be further modified by oxidation. The precise analysis of the distribution of DNA-methylation and its oxidative forms will be of great importance to understand the role of DNA-methylation as epigenetic memory signatures of cells.

Changes in DNA-Methylation patterns and mutations in the enzymes of the methylation machinery are involved in the molecular pathophysiology of various human disorders like genomic imprinting defects and associated syndromes, ICF syndrome, Rett-Syndrome, Fragile-X-syndrome and cancer. The research in the laboratory aims at understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the control by DNA methylation in mammals and other eukaryotic model organisms.

Research areas and current projects of the group

In our research we explore the epigenetic control of developmental processes and investigate changes in DNA-methylation occuring in diseased cells of the human. Towards this goal our interdisciplinary research team of biologists and bioinformaticians uses state of the art NGS technologies and computational epigenome approaches as well as high resolution fluorescence microscopy and single cell manipulation technologies. The following topics are currently in focus of our research:
Epigenetic reprogramming in stem cells
Epigenomic reprogramming is an important molecular process in the development of stem cells. In natural (ESCs, early embryos) and induced (iPS) states of pluripotency epigenetic modifications are dr …
Genomic Imprinting
Imprinted genes are preferentially or exclusively expressed from only one of the parental alleles. The silencing of one allele involves epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation such as DNA methylati …
Clinical Epigenetics
Epigenetic changes play an important role in complex human diseases such as cancer. In our research we apply NGS based sequencing technologies and ultra-deep sequencing to identify novel highly sens …
Epigenomics
The goal of our epigenome projects funded through the national and international programs DEEP, NOTOX and BLUEPRINT is to gain a deeper understanding where, when and how DNA-methylation influences the …
Toxico-Epigenomics
The epigenetic memory of gene regulation in cells may be influenced by the exposure of cells to toxic substances. In a collaborative research program NOTOX (2010-2016) funded by SEURAT and the EU we a …