Faculty promotions at the Max Perutz Labs
Congratulations to Karl Kuchler and Thomas Leonard who have been appointed Professors in the subject field of Molecular Biology by the Medical University of Vienna, and Thomas Juffmann who has been promoted to Associate Professor at the University of Vienna.
‘Network medicine’ directs disease diagnosis
Rare diseases are usually caused by a single genetic defect. Nevertheless, the search for the cause and the assessment of the effects is highly complex and difficult. Jörg Menche’s lab has now developed a multiplex network that maps all genes and their interactions on multiple levels of biological organization. Their study, published in Nature Communications, could help scientists better diagnose the causative genetic defects in disease, as well as understand the underlying mechanisms.
Decoding the role of PHF3 in transcription
Yeast homologue of the PHD finger protein 3 (PHF3) is known to be involved in transcription regulation, but its exact function in mammalian cells has remained unclear. New work from the lab of Dea Slade now shows that PHF3 regulates RNA polymerase II through a specialized domain called SPOC. Their study, published in Nature Communications, identifies PHF3 as a regulator of both transcription and mRNA stability during neuronal differentiation. The work is a collaboration between the Slade Lab, scientists from the Vienna BioCenter, the Institute of Science and Technology (IST, Austria), the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC, Czech Republic) and the Max Delbrück Center (Germany).
FWF grants awarded to Max Perutz Labs researchers
The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) has awarded individual project grants to Manuela Baccarini, Boris Görke and Robert Konrat. The funding amounts to a total of 1.3 million Euros and will support research on the ERK signaling pathway, bacterial envelope stress responses, and intrinsically disordered proteins.
“Always try to disprove your results”
Andrea Barta has been leading the doctoral program (DK) “RNA Biology” since its inception in 2007. Over the years, the doctoral school has trained dozens of PhD students with a focus on RNA research. On the occasion of the closing conference, we talked to her about the scientific highlights of the program, the importance of thematically structured PhD education, and why the big picture matters as much as the little details.
How to detox the nucleus of unsaturated fat
In eukaryotes, the nucleus harbors the genetic information of a cell, protected by a double lipid membrane called the nuclear envelope. The lipid composition of membranes is tightly regulated, thereby controlling its biophysical properties and functionality. In work published in Developmental Cell, Anete Romanauska and Alwin Köhler have discovered a detoxification mechanism that protects the inner nuclear membrane from high concentrations of unsaturated lipids that can alter the viscosity and function of the envelope. They have delineated the mechanism by which excess unsaturated fatty acids are stored in cytoplasmic lipid droplets and thus kept away from the nucleus.
Coffee with a view
It is the highlight of a series of architectural changes at the Perutz: The Max Bar on the Roof has opened its doors.
“This is one of the best times to do science”
Stefan Ameres obtained his Master’s degree from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (Germany) and his PhD from the University of Vienna. After postdoctoral training in the United States at the University of Massachusetts Medical School he joined the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna as a group leader in 2012. In 2020 he was appointed Professor of RNA Biology at the Max Perutz Labs, University of Vienna. We talked to him about why RNA is the molecule of (his) life, how he rocked the terrace of the Perutz with his band as a PhD student, and what his advice to young researchers is.
Close friends and distant relatives
In order to exchange genetic material between parental chromosomes during meiosis, cells need to introduce DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) that are later repaired in a specific manner. Which proteins are necessary and sufficient for this process and how they achieve faithful DSB formation and repair is still poorly understood. The lab of Peter Schlögelhofer and their collaborator Mathilde Grelon from the INRAE (Versailles, France) have systematically investigated the interactions between DSB proteins in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Their work also identified a key protein that links the DSB complex to the DNA repair machinery. The study is published in Nucleic Acids Research.
PETISCO - a multi-tool for piRNA processing
Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are essential to repress transposable elements in the animal germline. In the nematode worm C. elegans, piRNA biogenesis requires a protein complex called PETISCO, but exactly what PETISCO does and how it works is poorly understood. The group of Sebastian Falk and their collaborators now provide unique insights into the molecular details of piRNA processing in C. elegans. PETISCO also has a second, unknown function in embryogenesis, which is dependent on the binding of a different accessory protein. The work resolves the question of how one protein complex can fulfill two different functions and is expected to help elucidate the elusive role of PETISCO in early development. The study is published in Genes & Development.
Proteus changes his Akt
The protein kinase Akt is activated in the PI3K pathway by a combination of signaling phospholipids and phosphorylation by upstream protein kinases. However, their respective contributions to the activity of Akt in the cell remains controversial. The lab of Thomas Leonard has determined the first high-resolution structure of near full-length Akt1 without the use of pharmacological inhibitors. Their findings provide new insights into how signaling lipids limit the spatial activity of Akt to membranes. The study, published in PNAS, also reveals the mechanistic basis of how Akt is perturbed in cancer and in Proteus syndrome, a rare overgrowth disease.
Tardigrades take the stage
Discussions with his family about science inspired Adrià Nogales Moral from the lab of Alwin Köhler to become involved in communicating science to a wider audience. He has recently been awarded an Impact Award by the University of Vienna, which he will use to increase the visibility of his research on tardigrades, the most resilient organisms on earth. The award is financed by the City of Vienna and given to outstanding dissertation projects with the potential to reach target groups outside the scientific community and to add social, cultural or economic value.