Lehrstuhl f. Zoologie I (Zell- und Entwicklungsbiologie)
Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg
Research foci (and basic equipment-based research projects):
Research activities of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology and the central facilty for Electron Microscopy focus on cell biological aspects of gene expression. Common theme of these studies is to understand the structural principles that govern the spatial distribution of the genome and to decipher the functional relationships between gene expression and the dynamic organization of vertebrate cell nuclei. Gene expression is a hierarchical process involving chromatin organization and arrangement, gene transcription, processing of the RNA transcripts, packaging with specific proteins and export of the resulting RNA-protein complexes through the nuclear pore complexes into the cytoplasm. Many of these different aspects of gene expression - from the packaging of the genome to nuclear export processes- and their functional interrelationships with nuclear structures are being studied by the various research groups. We are combining molecular biological and protein biochemical approaches with cell biological techniques (e.g., expression and analysis of GFP-fusion proteins in living cells by confocal laser scanning microscopy; immunocytochemistry at the light and electron microscopic level; suppression of gene expression by RNA interference). Since the recent discovery that mutations of genes coding for proteins of the inner nuclear membrane (lamins, emerin) cause skeletal and heart muscle dystrophies we are collaborating with the institute of Human Genetics in the analysis of cell biological consequences of these hereditary diseases ("laminopathies").
Another class of human muscle and nerve diseases is caused by mitochondrial defects. We wish to elucidate the molecular and cell biological alterations that accompany these "mitochondriopathies". Genetic testing of patients is carried out in collaboration with the Institute of Human Genetics. We have developed a vector system that is capable of directing nucleic acids to mitochondria or the nucleus. Whether or not the nucleic acids can overtake a role in cellular processes is subject of current research.
Ongoing projects in the field of developmental biology include molecular and cell biological studies of zygotic gene activation during early development of the clawed toad Xenopus laevis. Using mice as a model organism molecular mechanisms of spermatogenesis are being investigated. Furthermore, we are studying regulation of developmental processes by steroid hormones and transport of macromolecules through cell membranes by receptor-mediated endocytosis of specific proteins (hexamerines) during larval growth of insects. The latter studies have paved the way for the development of a novel generation of insecticides.
See individual projects