Full member of the DoktoratsKolleg RNA Biology since 2007
PhD students and their thesis projects:
Manali Mishra: “Identification and characterization of RNA targets of RS2/33 in Arabidopsis thaliana”
DK RNA Biology Alumni:
Olga Bannikova: “Finding RNA targets for the multidomain cyclophilin AtCyp59 by Genomic SELEX in Arabidopsis thaliana”
Janett Göhring: “Imaging of Endogenous mRNA Splice Variants in Living Plant Cells”
Yamile Marquez Ortiz: “Identification of Alternative Splicing Events in Arabidopsis thaliana: Regulation by abiotic stress and plant specific SR proteins”
Armin Fuchs: “Unraveling the role of the plant-specific Ser/Arg-rich proteins RS31 and RS31a in alternative splicing and the DNA damage response in Arabidopsis thaliana”
What determines the complexity of higher organisms? No correlation has been found to DNA content and gene number and therefore studies in the field are now focusing on post-transcriptional processes and the impact of the dynamic transcriptome on gene expression.
Alternative splicing is one of the posttranscriptional events to expand the repertoire of genes and it has been exploited for various differentiation processes. In plants, the significance of alternative splicing was long underestimated, but we and others have shown that it greatly impacts on development and response to the environment. As alternative splicing in Arabidopsis is not well defined we are using RNAseq to define the rules and targets of alternative splicing.
SR (Ser/Arg) proteins are important splicing factors and to date we have isolated and partially characterized several Arabidopsis SR proteins, which are important for splice site selection and spliceosome assembly. In addition, we have isolated several regulatory proteins which seem to be essential to drive the splicing process, like SRPK kinases, helicases and cyclophilins. To elucidate their mechanisms of action some of the plant SR proteins and cyclophilins are currently characterized in greater detail in terms of their RNA targets, interacting proteins and their impact on flowering and UV-stress response. Interestingly, some of these factors seem to connect splicing to transcription and are therefore currently investigated in greater detail.
Furthermore, a project has been started to investigate the influence of chromatin and DNA modifications on alternative splicing in plants. In another line of research, we are developing a genomic method to select for riboswitches (these are regulatory RNA elements which can bind metabolites) in plants, as they are implicated in regulating alternative splicing and gene expression.