Our main area of interest is post-transcriptional control of gene expression at the level of protein synthesis, with a particular emphasis on its role in the nervous system. Our group studies translational control mechanisms and we want to understand how translational control contributes to neuronal function, how this contributes to the nervous system as a whole, and how this affects behavior.
RNA-binding proteins are key effectors of translational control, and several evolutionarily conserved proteins of this class have been implicated in different aspects of neuronal function both in health and disease. Accordingly, our key objectives include the identification of specific mRNA targets of RNA-binding proteins that contribute to neuronal function and the dissection of the molecular mechanisms that operate on these mRNAs in a neuronal context. We are using a broad range of biochemical, cell-biological, and functional-genomic approaches to tackle this challenging area of research.
Our in vivo studies focus on classic model systems: the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and the mouse. Both systems offer powerful genetic tools to probe the function of translational control in the nervous system. We collaborate extensively with other groups at the ZMNH and UKE, in particular with Dr. Peter Soba, Prof. Manuel Friese, and Dr. Fabio Morellini. Ultimately, we hope our interdisciplinary line of enquiry will provide insight into neuronal function at multiple levels, from the gene all the way to behavior. Moreover, we expect that this 'gene-to-behavior' insight will help us to better understand the molecular and cellular causes of neuronal diseases and thereby contribute to alleviating their burden.