Genome Biology

Architecture, Function and Stability

A major research interest at the Department of Biology at TU Darmstadt is the structure, function and stability of the (epi)genome and its response to genotoxic stress.

We have a strong expertise in radiation biology covering the full spectrum from ionizing to solar radiation. This expertise was consolidated during the DFG-funded research training group 1657 “Molecular and Cellular Responses to Ionizing Radiation” and is further showcased by several research networks funded by the German ministry for research and education (BMBF). In our research we focus on multidisciplinary approaches combining cellular and molecular biology with biophysics, bioinformatics and mathematical modeling to understand the consequences of radiation from the level of single molecules to whole organisms. In this context, experts from the biology, chemistry and physics departments of the TU Darmstadt collaborate closely amongst each other as well as with the research groups at the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt and the Clinic for Radiation Therapy of the Medical Faculty of the Goethe University Frankfurt.

Furthermore, we are members of the recently funded DFG collaborative research center “Regulation of DNA Repair and Genome Stability” coordinated by the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. Within this initiative, we focus on the molecular mechanisms that modulate the activities of genome maintenance pathways in the cell at three interconnected levels, namely: i) the origins of genome instability; ii) the perception of genotoxic stress (damage sensing); and iii) the systems for its resolution (DNA repair).

In addition to studying genome function and stability under stress, we are also interested in understanding its three-dimensional architecture and how it changes dynamically during cellular differentiation, reprogramming and disease. In the past, the genome has mainly been studied as a one-dimensional polymer, since methods that facilitate detailed insights into the genome’s spatial arrangement became available only recently. Taking advantage of the well-established interdisciplinary environment at the Department of Biology, we are investigating the interplay between the three-dimensional genome architecture and its function (including genome replication, damage repair and gene expression). In this context, we also participate in the German-wide DFG-funded priority program on “Spatial Genome Architecture in Development and Disease”.

To support our research, we have a variety of instrumentation and related expertise in house including multiple flow cytometry devices and a microscopy core facility, as well as different devices for treating samples with ionizing or solar irradiation. This is complemented by state-of-the-art equipment for biochemical, molecular and cellular biology (see also research theme “Synthetic Biology”) as well as an animal facility.