Gene Regulation, RNA, Epigenetics

How is genetic information stored and used?

Research in gene regulation and gene expression, RNA biology, and epigenetics at the Vienna BioCenter combines diverse approaches ranging from biochemistry and cell biology to genomics and transcriptomics to unravel the connections between genomes and the transcripts they encode. A particular focus is on RNA research, where myriad roles for this nucleic acid have only recently come to light.

Gene expression is at the heart of nearly all cellular processes. Differential gene expression is a prerequisite of multi-cellularity and the main driver of development, while failures in gene regulation cause many diseases including neurological disorders and diabetes. Sophisticated mechanisms exercise tight control over when, where, to what extent, and in what form genes are expressed. This makes the relationship between genotype and phenotype a complex one.

These control mechanisms are being unraveled at the Vienna BioCenter by studying regulation at different levels of gene expression: at the transcriptional level (e.g., transcription factors, regulatory DNA elements, DNA/chromatin modifications, and higher-order chromatin structure), the co-transcriptional level (certain non-coding RNAs), and the post-transcriptional level (e.g., splicing, RNA modifications, and RNA decay). Epigenetic processes alter phenotypes without changing the DNA sequence, and epigenetics research has long been a stronghold at the Vienna BioCenter, with seminal discoveries on DNA and histone methylation, and more recently on small RNA-mediated silencing.

Another strength lies in RNA biology research, with 17 RNA research groups working on messenger RNAs, transfer RNAs, ribosomal RNAs, and non-coding RNAs. The intimate involvement of RNA in gene regulation has become increasingly apparent in recent years. In particular, small RNAs, which include microRNAs, small interfering RNAs, piwi-interacting RNAs, and bacterial small regulatory RNAs, have fueled a renaissance in this field, with the Vienna BioCenter internationally recognized for its contributions.


Studies of small RNA-based defense systems in bacteria and eukaryotes not only provided fundamental insights into the ancient arms race between parasitic genetic elements and their hosts, but also led to powerful tools to silence gene expression or to edit genomes. These tools, including RNA interference- and CRISPR/Cas-based approaches, have revolutionized molecular biology.

The Vienna BioCenter organizes the annual Microsymposium on Small RNAs, which was founded in 2005 and has established itself as the major small RNA symposium in Europe

Research Groups "Gene Regulation, RNA, Epigenetics"

Research Group Institute Topic
Ameres IMBA Mechanism and biology of RNA silencing
Ammerer MFPL Signal transduction and transcriptional regulation in yeast
Barta MFPL Post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in plants
Becker GMI Genomics and epigenomics of plant-plant and plant-environment interactions
Bell IMBA Mechanisms of epigenetic memory
Berger GMI Chromatin Architecture and Function
Blaesi MFPL Post-transcriptional regulation in Bacteria and Archaea
Brennecke IMBA Transposon silencing & heterochromatin formation by small RNAs
Buecker MFPL Transcriptional Regulation during Early Embryonic Development
Busslinger IMP Stem cell commitment in haematopoiesis
Clausen IMP Molecular mechanisms of protein quality control
Cochella IMP Transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms of cell-type specification
Decker MFPL Host responses and innate immunity to bacteria
Elling IMBA Functional genomics in embryonic stem cells
Goerke MFPL Signal Transduction and post-transcriptional regulation in model bacteria
Ivessa MFPL Protein biogenesis and degradation from the ER
Koehler MFPL Nuclear Pores - Regulators of Chromatin and Membrane Dynamics
Koo IMBA Homeostatic regulation of adult stem cells
Kovarik MFPL Signaling and gene expression in inflammation
Kowalski MFPL Molecular and structural biology of picornaviruses
Kuchler MFPL Host-Pathogen Interactions & Mechanisms of Drug Resistance & Fungal Pathogenesis
Leeb MFPL Molecular control of cell fate decisions
Martinez MFPL Biochemistry, physiology and disease of the tRNA splicing pathway in mammalian cells
Mendjan IMBA Molecular control of human organogenesis
Mittelsten Scheid GMI Epigenetic Changes in Plants
Moll MFPL Ribosome Heterogeneity in Bacteria
Nodine GMI Small RNA Functions in Plant Embryos
Nordborg GMI Population Genetics
Pauli IMP Functions of short translated open reading frames (ORFs) in the context of development
Pavri IMP Molecular mechanisms of antibody diversification
Plaschka IMP mRNA processing and regulation
Schroeder MFPL Riboregulation of transcription - how RNA controls its own synthesis
Slade MFPL DNA damage response
Stark IMP Understanding transcriptional regulation
Tachibana IMBA Chromatin reprogramming in totipotent stem cells
Tessmar MFPL Lunar periodicity and inner brain photoreceptors
Urban IMBA Systemic regulation of adult neurogenesis
Weitzer MFPL Somatic Stem Cells of the Heart
Witte MFPL ΦCh1, model for gene regulation in haloalkaliphilic Archaea
Zagrovic MFPL Molecular Biophysics
Zuber IMP Finding and probing cancer drug targets using advanced RNAi technologies
Karagoez MFPL Protein quality control in the endoplasmic reticulum
Falk MFPL Biogenesis and Action of small RNAs
Mari-Ordonez GMI Mechanisms of recognition and silencing of transposons in plants
Swarts GMI Tree-ring genomics