Division of Epigenetics
Prof. Dr. Frank Lyko
Epigenetic mechanisms regulate the interpretation of genetic information. As such, epigenetics plays an important role in mediating phenotypic plasticity. Important examples include cellular differentiation, aging and transformation.
DNA methylation is the longest known and best-characterized epigenetic modification. In the human genome, more than 20 million cytosine residues are methylated in the context of CG dinucleotides. Importantly, altered DNA methylation patterns represent one of the earliest and most consistent hallmarks of human cancers. This allows fundamentally new approaches in the clinical management of cancer.
Our research activities aim at understanding the biological function of cytosine methylation in various model systems. For example, we are using next-generation sequencing and bioinformatical approaches to analyze complex epigenomic profiles from various cancer models and to better understand the role of altered DNA methylation patterns in tumor formation. We are also expanding the analysis of cytosine methylation into the RNA world, where we are using molecular and cellular approaches to functionally characterize RNA methylation as a novel epigenetic mechanism. Lastly, we are also investigating the role of cytosine methylation at the interface between the environment and the genome, with a particular focus on human skin aging and on ecological model systems.
Raddatz, G., Gao, Q., Bender, S., Jaenisch, R., and Lyko, F. (2012). Dnmt3a protects active chromosome domains against cancer-associated hypomethylation. PLoS Genetics 8: e1003146.
Tuorto, F., Liebers, R., Musch, T., Schaefer, M., Hofmann, S., Kellner, S., Frye, M., Helm, M., Stoecklin, G., and Lyko, F. (2012). RNA cytosine methylation by Dnmt2 and NSun2 promotes tRNA stability and protein synthesis. Nature Struct. Mol. Biol. 19: 900-905.
Schaefer, M., Pollex, T., Hanna, K., Tuorto, F., Meusburger, M., Helm, M., and Lyko, F. (2010). RNA methylation by Dnmt2 protects transfer RNAs against stress-induced cleavage. Genes and Development 24: 1590-1595.
Lyko, F., Foret, S., Kucharski, R., Wolf, S., Falckenhayn, C., and Maleszka, R. (2010). The honey bee epigenomes: differential methylation of brain DNA in queens and workers. PLoS Biology 8: e1000506.