Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

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Department of Genetics  > Research groups  

Research groups

The Department consists of three research groups

Choose a research group on the left to find out more about them.

A short overview on the research interests of the different labs is given here:

The Theißen lab investigates 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 ‘Bierhoff Lab’ investigates epigenetic regulation by non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) in human and mouse cells. We would like to understand how ncRNAs are targeted to specific regions in the genome and which proteins they recruit to impact chromatin structure. At the moment, we are mainly focusing on triple-helices that are formed between ncRNAs and certain genomic sites (ncRNA:DNA triplexes). Triplex-formation facilitates a sequence-specific DNA recognition without unwinding of the DNA double helix, and is thus exquisitely suited for targeted interactions between ncRNAs and the genome. To date, ncRNA:DNA triplexes are poorly understood. Therefore, we have developed novel tools and techniques to detect ncRNA:DNA triplexes genome-wide in cells and to functionally characterize them. We are combining these studies with various molecular biology and high throughput methods.


The Brantl lab focuses 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.