University of Heidelberg

Genome Organization & Function

Research focus

The Genome Organization & Function group at the BIOQUANT is an interdisciplinary research team of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). We combine molecular/cell biology and physics to investigate the relation between DNA organization and cell function. In the cell nucleus the negatively charged DNA is wrapped around small positively charged histone proteins to form a nucleoprotein complex referred to as chromatin. The conformation and dynamic properties of chromatin determine the access to the DNA sequence information and control many activities of the cell. Thus, the chromatin state can be regarded as a key determinant of the active gene expression program. Accordingly, it determines functional cell states like proliferation, differentiation, senescence or apoptosis and selects between metabolic activities (see scheme below).

Within the group both in vivo and in vitro experiments are being conducted using for example fluorescence spectroscopy/microscopy as well as atomic force microscopy and analytical ultracentrifugation to elucidate mechanisms of chromatin assembly, the control of the dynamic chromatin conformation or DNA accessibility changes. Furthermore, various approaches to the modeling and quantitative descriptions of these processes are being developed. The group is supported by the Volkswagenstiftung in the program "Junior Research Groups at German Universities" and by the DFG.

Cell fate decisions in the nucleus. An external signal as for example the presence or absence of certain growth factors is transmitted via a signal transduction cascade to the cell nucleus. There it is processed to induce changes of the genome organization and/or its epigenetic state. This modifies the gene expression program and determines cell function. more ...

Contact: E-Mail (Last update: 19/01/2010)