Division of Chromatin Networks

Prof. Dr. Karsten Rippe

Computer simulations of the dynamic structure of a nucleosome. The nucleosome is the basic building block of chromatin and consists of an histone protein core with DNA wrapped around it. In a human cell about 30 million nucleosomes organize the genome of 6 billion DNA base pairs. The image shows computer simulations of the dynamics nucleosome conformation over a 2 nanosecond time period with histone proteins in white and the DNA color-coded according to simulation time from red to white to blue. For further details on investigating nucleosome and chromatin features in computer simulations see Ettig et al. 2011, Biophys. J. and Kepper et al. 2008, Biophys. J.
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The Division of Chromatin Networks at the DKFZ and the BioQuant is an interdisciplinary research team that combines molecular/cell biology and physics. It investigates the relation of the dynamic organization of the genome in the eukaryotic cell nucleus with the readout, processing, maintenance and transfer of the information encoded in the DNA sequence. A special focus is put on the conformation and dynamic properties of chromatin - the complex of the DNA genome with histones and other chromosomal proteins. Both the DNA and the protein component of chromatin are subject to post-translational modifications that include DNA/histone methylation, as well as acetylation and phosphorylation of histones. These epigenetic signals determine the cell's gene expression pattern and can be propagated through cell division. They are tightly related to chromatin organization, which in turn is a key determinant of access to DNA sequence information for interacting protein factors. The goal of the group is to provide an integrated view on how the dynamic balance between different chromatin states determines genome functions.

Understanding how chromatin states are established and maintained becomes increasingly important for medical diagnosis and therapy of cancer, developmental diseases and other pathologies. We will further advance the single cell analysis of epigenetic networks by fluorescence spectroscopy/microscopy-based techniques in living cells and integrate it with genome wide studies of nucleosome positioning, protein binding and histone modifications in cell populations based on DNA sequencing. The experimental results will serve as the basis for various modeling-based projects with respect to developing quantitative descriptions for the dynamic chromatin organization in the context of the dynamic nuclear architecture into subcompartments. The results from these studies are integrated to dissect the underlying networks. Our work has a number of implications for translational medical research with respect to elucidating the complex effects of epigenetic drugs like histone deacetylase or DNA methylase inhibitors in treatment of cancer. Accordingly, we plan to apply a number of approaches currently used with immortalized human and mouse cell lines to studies of primary cancer cells.

External Bioquant-Website


Prof. Dr. Karsten Rippe
Chromatin Networks (B066)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Im Neuenheimer Feld 280
69120 Heidelberg
Tel: +49 6221 54 51376

Selected Publications

  • Müller-Ott, K., Erdel, F., Matveeva, A., Hahn, M., Mallm, J.-P., Rademacher, A., Marth, C., Zhang, Q., Kaltofen, S., Schotta, G., Höfer, T. & Rippe, K. (2014). Specificity, propagation and memory of pericentric heterochromatin. Mol. Syst. Biol. 10, 746. doi: 10.15252/msb.20145377
  • Baum, M., Wachsmuth, M., Erdel, F. & Rippe, K. (2014). Retrieving the intracellular topology from multi-scale protein mobility mapping in living cells. Nat. Commun. 5, 4494. doi: 10.1038/ncomms5494
  • Teif, V. B., Beshnova, D. A., Vainshtein, Y., Marth, C., Mallm, J.-P., Höfer, T. & Rippe, K. (2014). Nucleosome repositioning links DNA (de)methylation and differential CTCF binding during stem cell development. Genome Res. 24, 1285-1295. doi: 10.1101/gr.164418.113
  • Chung, I., Leonhardt, H. & Rippe, K. (2011). De novo assembly of a PML nuclear subcompartment occurs through multiple pathways and induces telomere elongation. J. Cell Sci. 124, 3603-3618. doi: 10.1242/jcs.084681
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