Max Planck Research Group Quantitative RNA Biology
Understanding how our genome works is one of the most important goals of biological sciences. With only four letters A, T, C and G, the alphabet of our genome is deceptively simple. However, the language built with these four letters is proving to be extremely complex and full of surprises. For example, as the human genome was sequenced at the turn of the century, it became clear that at least half of our genome is composed of so-called selfish genetic elements: transposons and viruses while the protein-coding part of genome makes up less than 2% of our genome. How is this possible, and what does it really mean?
On the one hand, we know that transposons/viruses pose a danger to our genome integrity and cause diseases, on the other hand it is becoming more and more clear that at the same time, paradoxically, they play crucial roles in creating incredible biological complexity. How do our cells perform this balancing act?
In our laboratory we are motivated by these fundamental questions and we will work on several aspects of transposon-host interactions and their impact on the evolution and wiring of post-transcriptional RNA processing networks. We will investigate how strategies that suppress, delay or neutralize transcribed transposons/viruses shape our transcriptomes and through evolution, our genomes.
We will first use a candidate-approach to study factors that are implicated in transposon RNA processes and later set up unbiased screens to uncover novel players. Several in vivo and in vitro models will be used to interrogate cellular responses to transposon activity in rapidly dividing cells as well as post-mitotic cells, which differ greatly with respect to their RNA metabolism.