FWF Stand-Alone grants awarded to Max Perutz Labs scientists
The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) has awarded individual project grants to Manuela Baccarini, Martin Leeb, and Pavel Kovarik for a total funding of € 1.3 million. The scientists, who are all part of the SMICH doctoral program at the Max Perutz Labs, will lead exciting projects in cell signalling, immunity, and cell fate determination respectively.
Max Perutz PhD Fellowships awarded
The Max Perutz Labs recognize the most ambitious and innovative PhD projects at the institute with the Max Perutz PhD Fellowship. This year’s winners are Júlia Garcia Baucells (Dammermann Lab) and Paulina Kettel (Karagöz Lab). Their respective projects will investigate the material properties of centrosomes and the unfolded protein response.
Cell fate determination: making sense out of nonsense
Nonsense mediated mRNA decay (NMD) is a cellular surveillance mechanism that detects and degrades potentially dangerous mRNA transcripts containing premature stop codons. Reporting in Genes & Development, the lab of Martin Leeb has discovered a role for NMD in controlling the transition of stem cells from naïve to formative pluripotency. The study is a collaboration with the groups of Stefan Ameres, Christa Bücker and Arndt von Haeseler at the Max Perutz Labs, as well as researchers from the University of Cologne, the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute and the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology.
Ignaz Lieben Prize awarded to Kristin Tessmar-Raible
Congratulations to group leader Kristin Tessmar-Raible who has received the oldest and highest award of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Ignaz Lieben Prize. The prize recognizes Kristin’s work in the field of molecular chronobiology.
Resistance and tolerance: two sides of the same coin
Interleukin 1 alpha (IL-1α) and Interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β) are signaling molecules that regulate inflammation and immunity in response to infection. They bind to the same receptor and were previously thought to be redundant. In a new study published in Science Advances, the lab of Pavel Kovarik has discovered that IL-1α and IL-1β exhibit tissue-specific expression patterns and have distinct functions in the defense against bacterial infections. Whereas IL-1β drives bacterial clearance and hence resistance, IL-1α is essential for host defense by promoting tolerance to infections.
Peter Schlögelhofer promoted to University Professor
Congratulations to group leader Peter Schlögelhofer, who has been promoted to full professor by the University of Vienna. Using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, Peter’s lab studies the molecular mechanisms of meiotic recombination, an important process for all sexually reproducing organisms, including humans, plants and animals. In the coming years the lab plans to deepen our mechanistic understanding of meiosis while also branching out into more applied fields of meiosis research.
Keeping meiotic entry in check
The differentiation of germline progenitor cells into meiocytes is crucial for the production of healthy gametes. In C. elegans, this step is governed by three post-transcriptional pathways, one of which relies on specific protein degradation mediated by the SCF PROM-1 ubiquitin ligase. In new work published in Science Advances, the lab of Verena Jantsch has identified the protein phosphatase PPM-1.D as a target of PROM-1 and a novel meiotic regulator. The work is a collaboration with the lab of Sebastian Falk at the Max Perutz Labs as well as the lab of Tim Schedl from Washington University School of Medicine and the lab of Yumi Kim from John Hopkins University.
Aiming for the basket
The nuclear pore basket is a conical, net-like structure that is attached to the main body of the nuclear pore complex. The basket is crucial for the transport of macromolecules between the cell nucleus and the cytoplasm, while it also regulates many aspects of gene expression. The lab of Alwin Köhler has, for the first time, managed to reconstitute key parts of the basket on synthetic membranes. Their study, published in Science Advances, provides new insights into the intricate assembly principles of this important structure, helping to explain how it achieves the flexibility necessary for the transport of large cargo.
ERC grant for Thomas Juffmann
The European Research Council ERC has awarded a Proof of Concept grant to the group of Thomas Juffmann. Following up on an ERC Starting Grant in 2018, the 150.000 EUR funding enables the team to explore applications of fluorescence-lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) in medicine and super-resolution microscopy.
Blooming too soon: timing is crucial to error-free cell division
The Bloom (BLM) DNA helicase is an important enzyme in DNA repair and the maintenance of genome stability. Mutations in BLM are associated with Bloom’s Syndrome, a disease characterized by growth defects and increased susceptibility to cancer. In their latest study, published in Science Advances, the lab of Joao Matos and their colleagues at the IRB-Bellinzona and ETH-Zürich (Switzerland) have elucidated the mechanism that regulates the correct timing of BLM activity during mitotic cell division. They show that BLM activity depends on its phosphorylation by two cell cycle kinases and that active BLM promotes the dissolution of potentially dangerous recombination intermediates.
New funding for meiosis research
The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) has awarded a special research programme (SFB) grant to six research groups from the Max Perutz Labs and scientists from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA), the Institute for Science and Technology Austria (IST), and the Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria (JKU). The program is coordinated by Verena Jantsch and aims to gain novel mechanistic insights into the fundamental biological process of meiosis.
Anete Romanauska wins Science & SciLifeLab Prize
Congratulations to Anete Romanauska who has been awarded the Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists in the category “Cell and Molecular Biology”. The international award was created by Science magazine/AAAS and the Swedish research center SciLifeLab with the goal to recognize excellent PhD theses in the life sciences. As part of her prize, Anete has published an essay in Science about her contributions to our understanding of the lipid metabolism of the nuclear envelope.