Welcome to the
Department of Genetics ("Struktureinheit Genetik")
Head: Prof. Dr. Günter Theißen
Deputy Head: Prof. Dr. Wim Damen
Secretary: Sabine Schein
The overall goal of the Department is to investigate the genetic mechanisms that generate evolutionary novelties and biodiversity. In a framework of evolutionary developmental biology ("evo-devo"), we study the phylogeny of developmental control genes and their impact on morphological evolution in animals and plants. To achieve our goal we use a wide range of tools from genetics, molecular biology and bioinformatics.
The Department consists of three research groups:
The Theißen lab investigates the structure, function and evolution of transcription factors, concentrating on proteins encoded by MADS-box genes. Our interests range from the relationship between structure and function on the molecular level via the mechanisms underlying gene regulation (including the importance of microRNAs) to the role of transcription factors in the evolution of gene regulatory networks and developmental processes. A major focus of our work is on elucidating the role of MADS-box genes in the evolution of flowers and fruits and in the origin of biodiversity. Our model systems comprise diverse land plants ranging from mosses to flowering plants, and includes important crop plants such as cabbage, rice, maize, tulips and spruce as well as wild plants (e.g. field pepperweed) and typical model organisms (thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana). To achieve our goals we use tools from genetics, molecular biology, biophysics and bioinformatics.
The Damen lab studies animal body plan evolution. Our interest is in the evolutionary basis of biological pattern formation. We focus primarily on the genetic mechanisms underlying evolution and development in arthropods, mainly using spiders and myriapods as models. Our main interest is on the evolution of segmentation mechanisms and the evolution of appendages formation.
The Brantl lab focuses mainly on gene regulation in Gram-positive bacteria by small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs) and transcription factors. We use Bacillus subtilis as a model organism. One the one hand, we investigate a trans-encoded sRNA - SR1 - discovered in our group. SR1 is a dual-function sRNA: it acts as a base-pairing sRNA in arginine catabolism and as a peptide-encoding mRNA in sugar metabolism. On the other hand, we explore type I toxin-antitoxin systems in which the antitoxin is a cis-encoded sRNA. In both cases, we are interested in the biological functions of these sRNAs, their mechanisms of action as well as in their regulation by transcription factors. We utilize a combination of in vitro and in vivo techniques to characterize RNA and DNA-binding proteins.