Division of Epigenetics

Prof. Dr. Frank Lyko

Microscopic image of cancer stem cells expressing EGFP under the control of the OCT4-promoter.
© dkfz.de

Epigenetic mechanisms regulate the interpretation of genetic information and adapt gene expression patterns to changing developmental or environmental contexts. Several epigenetic mechanisms have been identified so far, with DNA cytosine methylation representing the best-studied and possibly most relevant epigenetic mark. Interestingly, cytosine methylation is also present in RNA, suggesting conserved epigenetic functions of DNA and RNA methylation. Our research focuses on understanding the biological function of cytosine methylation as a versatile epigenetic mark. Importantly, altered DNA methylation patterns represent one of the earliest and most consistent hallmarks of human cancers. We are using molecular approaches in combination with genome-wide epigenetic profiling technologies to analyze epigenetic dysregulation in premalignant conditions and during tumor formation. We have also developed a detailed mechanistic understanding of RNA methylation as a novel epigenetic mark. Finally, we are using several innovative animal model systems, such as honeybees, locusts and crayfish, to better understand the basic function of epigenetics in ecological adaptation and phenotypic plasticity.

The division will continue its focus on the mechanisms that drive epigenetic deregulation during tumorigenesis. We will also continue to explore the role of RNA methylation in the re-coding of the cancer transcriptome. Finally, we will further investigate adaptive functions of DNA methylation by establishing marbled crayfish as a novel model system for epigenetics research.


Prof. Dr. Frank Lyko
Epigenetics (A130)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Im Neuenheimer Feld 280
69120 Heidelberg
Tel: +49 6221 42 3800

Selected Publications

  • 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.
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