Transposons are DNA sequences that can catalyze their own movement within and between genomes, and are a major source of species diversification. Uncontrolled, however, they are dangerous and can threaten the viability of an organism. In work just published in Nature, Max Perutz Labs group leader Sebastian Falk and his collaborator René Ketting (Institute of Molecular Biology, Mainz, Germany) describe the discovery of a new complex that regulates the activity of transposons in the nematode worm, C. elegans. The work exposes a potential molecular link between innate immune responses to invading pathogens and mechanisms that control transposable elements.
Our innate immune system provides the first line of defense against invading pathogens. However, hyperactivation of these defenses can lead to inflammatory syndromes such as arthritis. Controlling the transcriptional programs that drive the innate immune response is therefore critical. In work recently published in eLife, the Versteeg lab has identified a factor essential for the degradation of the transcription factor IRF1, a key driver of the innate immune response. The work establishes a cellular mechanism by which cells maintain IRF1 levels in a so-called ‘Goldilocks zone’, thereby guarding against IRF1-driven inflammation.
New group leader Irma Querques has received a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to support her research project 'BROADCAST'. Irma and her team aim to better understand the mechanisms, functions and applications of transposons, bridging structural biology and biochemistry to biotechnology. The ERC Starting Grant is awarded to outstanding scientists starting their own independent research lab.
Scientists at CeMM, the Max Perutz Labs, and St. Anna Children’s Cancer Research Institute have achieved a significant advancement in the research of rare immune system disorders. Through a network-based approach, they have reclassified approximately 200 rare diseases. Initial comparisons with clinical data already demonstrate how this can enhance the prediction of treatment efficacy. Moreover, the study reveals for the first time the strong similarities between the molecular mechanisms of rare diseases and autoimmune and autoinflammatory conditions, such as chronic inflammatory bowel disorders, multiple sclerosis, and specific types of diabetes. The study has now been published in Science Advances.
Congratulations to Johannes Benedum, Elisabeth Holzer, and Alexandra Shulkina who have been awarded DOC Fellowships by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW). Furthermore, congratulations to Anzhela Pavlova, who has received a BIF Fellowship from the Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds. Both programs offer funding for highly qualified doctoral candidates. This year’s fellowships support projects on DNA repair mechanisms, regulation of RNA polymerases, and mammalian autophagy.
The cell nucleus is surrounded by a spherical double membrane called the nuclear envelope. Scientists have long been intrigued by how this envelope can be elastic enough to accommodate shape changes that cells experience as they move through tissues, but also rigid enough to maintain nuclear integrity. A study by Anete Romanauska and Alwin Köhler, published in Nature Cell Biology, uncovers that the chemistry of membrane lipids is key for this versatility. When this chemistry is perturbed, the nuclear membranes become stiff and prone to rupture, and nuclei lose their typical round shape and morph into a polyhedron.
Irma Querques studied Biotechnology at the University of Bologna and received a Ph.D. at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg. Before joining the Max Perutz Labs in 2023, she worked in the the lab of Martin Jinek at the University of Zurich as a postdoctoral fellow, studying CRISPR-guided transposons. We talked to her about the medical potential of her research on transposons, what science has to do with a good TV series, and how she gave up her dream of becoming a book author to tell stories about how molecular processes work.
Congratulations to Stephanie Ellis, who has been awarded a START grant totaling € 1.05 million by the Austrian Science Fund FWF. Together with the Wittgenstein Award, the FWF START grant is one of the most prestigious and highly endowed scientific awards in Austria. The funding will support Stephanie’s work on cell competition over the next five years.
Cilia are hair-like projections on the surface of eukaryotic cells that perform essential sensory and motile functions. Defects in cilia are associated with a wide range of human diseases, collectively known as ciliopathies. In work recently published in The EMBO Journal, the lab of Alex Dammermann has identified the core set of genes associated with cilium biogenesis and function, which includes an additional 152 previously uncharacterized genes. The authors’ compendium of ciliogenesis factors provides an invaluable inventory for the further investigation of this important cellular organelle.