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 alterations in premalignant lesions and during tumor formation. We have also developed a detailed mechanistic understanding of RNA methylation as a novel epigenetic mark. Finally, we are establishing the marbled crayfish as a unique animal model for clonal genome evolution and epigenetic variation.

The division will continue its focus on the mechanisms that drive epigenetic alterations during tumorigenesis. We will also continue to explore the role of RNA methylation in the re-coding of the cancer transcriptome and further investigate adaptive functions of DNA methylation in marbled crayfish.


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

Selected Publications

  • Abu-Remaileh, M. et al. (2015). Chronic inflammation induces a novel epigenetic program that is conserved in intestinal adenomas and in colorectal cancer. Cancer Res, 75(10), 2120-2130.
  • Vogt, G. et al. (2015). The marbled crayfish as a paradigm for saltational speciation by autopolyploidy and parthenogenesis in animals. Biol Open, 4(11), 1583-1594.
  • Raddatz, G. et al. (2013). Dnmt2-dependent methylomes lack defined DNA methylation patterns. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 110(21), 8627-8631.
  • Tuorto, F. et al. (2012). RNA cytosine methylation by Dnmt2 and NSun2 promotes tRNA stability and protein synthesis. Nat Struct Mol Biol, 19(9), 900–905.
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