startpage genetics


startpage genetics
Image: Florian Rümpler

Welcome to the Department of Genetics ("Struktureinheit Genetik")


HeadProf. Dr. Günter Theißen
Secretary: Sabine Schein


The overall goal of the Department is to investigate the genetic mechanisms that generate evolutionary novelties and biodiversity. In a framework of evolutionary developmental biology ("evo-devo"), we study the phylogeny of developmental control genes and their impact on morphological evolution in plants, fungi and bacteria. To achieve our goal we use a wide range of tools from genetics, molecular biology and bioinformatics.

 The Department consists of three research groups:

The Theißen Lab 

We investigate the structure, function and evolution of transcription factors, concentrating on proteins encoded by MADS-box genes. Our interests range from the relationship between structure and function on the molecular level via the mechanisms underlying gene regulation (including the importance of microRNAs) to the role of transcription factors in the evolution of gene regulatory networks and developmental processes. A major focus of our work is on elucidating the role of MADS-box genes in the evolution of flowers and fruits and in the origin of biodiversity. Our model systems comprise diverse land plants ranging from mosses to flowering plants, and includes important crop plants such as cabbage, rice, maize, tulips and spruce as well as wild plants (e.g. field pepperweed) and typical model organisms (thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana). To achieve our goals we use tools from genetics, molecular biology, biophysics and bioinformatics.


The Schirawski Lab

We seek to understand how biotrophic fungal pathogens of plants manage to recognize, differentiate, control, supress the host plant's immunity mechanisms, multiply and spread in the plant tissue, identify the suitable tissue and timepoint for spore production and change the morphology of the host plant. To reach these goals, we use as model organism the head smut fungus Sporisorium reilianum and its host plants maize (Zea mays) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor). We use among others classical and modern methods of genetic analysis, fluorescence microscopy, genome comparison, transcriptome analysis, molecular biology, biochemistry as well as a motivated team.


The Brantl lab 

We focus  mainly on gene regulation in Gram-positive bacteria by small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs) and transcription factors. We use Bacillus subtilis as model organism. On the one hand, we investigate a small trans-encoded sRNA – SR1 – discovered in our group. SR1 is a dual-function sRNA: it acts as base-pairing sRNA in arginine catabolism, but also encodes a peptide that does not only play a role in sugar metabolism, but has a global function in RNA degradation. On the other hand, we explore three type I toxin-antitoxin systems whose antitoxins are cis-encoded sRNAs. In both cases, we are interested in the biological functions of these sRNAs, their molecular mechanisms of action as well as their regulation by transcription factors. We employ a combination of in vitro and in vivo techniques to characterize RNA and DNA-binding proteins.