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
Berger GMI Chromatin Architecture and Function
Mari-Ordonez GMI Mechanisms of recognition and silencing of transposons in plants
Nordborg GMI Population Genetics
Swarts GMI Tree-ring genomics
Brennecke IMBA Transposon silencing & heterochromatin formation by small RNAs
Burga IMBA Molecular determinants of biological idiosyncrasy
Elling IMBA Functional genomics in embryonic stem cells
Jachowicz IMBA 'Dark' genome in early mammalian development
Mendjan IMBA Molecular control of human organogenesis
Rivron IMBA Blastoid development and implantation
Urban IMBA Regulation of neural stem cell quiescence
Busslinger IMP Stem cell commitment in haematopoiesis
Clausen IMP Molecular mechanisms of protein quality control
Gaidt IMP Functional genomics of the innate immune system
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
Stark IMP Understanding transcriptional regulation
Van der Veeken IMP T cell differentiation and function
Zuber IMP Finding and Understanding Cancer Dependencies
Ameres Max Perutz Labs Mechanism and biology of RNA silencing
Buecker Max Perutz Labs Transcriptional Regulation during Early Embryonic Development
Decker Max Perutz Labs Host responses and innate immunity to bacteria
Ellis Max Perutz Labs Cell Competition and Tissue Fitness in Development and Disease
Falk Max Perutz Labs Biogenesis and Action of small RNAs
Goerke Max Perutz Labs Signal Transduction and post-transcriptional regulation in model bacteria
Karagoez Max Perutz Labs Protein quality control in the endoplasmic reticulum
Koehler Max Perutz Labs Nuclear Pores - Regulators of Chromatin and Membrane Dynamics
Kovarik Max Perutz Labs Signaling and gene expression in inflammation
Kuchler Max Perutz Labs Host-Pathogen Interactions & Mechanisms of Drug Resistance & Fungal Pathogenesis
Leeb Max Perutz Labs Molecular control of cell fate decisions
Martinez Max Perutz Labs Biochemistry, physiology and disease of the tRNA splicing pathway in mammalian cells
Moll Max Perutz Labs Ribosome Heterogeneity in Bacteria
Querques Max Perutz Labs Genome Plasticity and Engineering
Slade Max Perutz Labs DNA damage response
Swarts Max Perutz Labs Tree-ring genomics
Tessmar Max Perutz Labs Lunar periodicity and inner brain photoreceptors
Weitzer Max Perutz Labs Somatic Stem Cells of the Heart
Zagrovic Max Perutz Labs Molecular Biophysics
Revilla-i-Domingo Uni Vienna - Faculty of Life Sciences Early Animal Evolution, Stem Cell Differentiation & Deep-Sea Sponge Ecology
Simakov Uni Vienna - Faculty of Life Sciences Evolution of Metazoan Genome Architecture