Chromatin Biochemistry​

To sustain life in different environments, cells and organisms must adjust to different conditions and external cues. In contrast to immediate and mostly transient responses to short-term stimuli, processes of long-term adaptation require lasting changes in gene expression patterns. Such changes are considered epigenetic as they provide an inheritable principle of gene control. On a molecular stage, epigenetic processes are directed on the level of chromatin, the packaging form of eukaryotic genomes. Here, DNA, the molecule of inheritance, as well as histones, the major scaffolding proteins of chromatin, are subject to a large variety of enzyme-directed, chemical modifications. These chemical modifications correlate to direct distinct structural and functional states of chromatin, thereby establishing differential usage of the genome in cell type variation and specification. 

Figure 1: Schematic representation of chromatin and its different organization levels. In the "Laboratory of Chromatin Biochemistry" we are aiming to understand how chromatin (i.e. DN​A and histone) modifications are read and translated for distinct functional states of discrete areas of the genome.  ​​

Our research aims to gain detailed and molecular understanding of fundamental epigenetic processes. In particular, we are investigating how the chemical modifications of chromatin are functionally translated in a cellular environment (Figure 1). In this context, our focus is on specialized proteins, RNAs, and small cellular signaling molecules. To address the complex interplay of these factors from multiple angles, our laboratory is applying highly interdisciplinary approaches. These include advancing technologies for establishing and analyzing complex chromatin systems in the test tube by applying biochemistry and biophysics, molecular and cellular biology studies of tissue culture cells, and the small nematode C. elegans for investigating essential chromatin components, as well as global and systematic analyses of the general modules and networks of epigenetic regulation.