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Division of Epigenetics

Prof. Dr. Frank Lyko

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

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

  • Lyko, F. (2018). The DNA methyltransferase family: a versatile toolkit for epigenetic regulation. Nat. Rev. Genet. 19: 81-92.
  • Rodriguez-Paredes, M., Bormann, F., Raddatz, G., Gutekunst, J., Lucena-Porcel, C., Köhler, F., Wurzer, E., Schmidt, K., Gallinat, S., Wenck, H., Röwert-Huber, J., Denisova, E., Feuerbach, L., Park, J., Brors, B., Herpel, E., Nindl, I., Hofmann, T.G., Winnefeld, M., and Lyko, F. (2018). Methylation profiling identifies two subclasses of squamous cell carcinoma related to distinct cells of origin. Nat. Commun. 9: 577.
  • Legrand, C., Tuorto, F., Hartmann, M., Liebers, R., Jacob, D., Helm, M., and Lyko, F. (2017). Statistically robust methylation calling for whole-transcriptome bisulfite sequencing reveals distinct methylation patterns for mouse RNAs. Genome Res. 27: 1589-1596.
  • Gutekunst, J., Andriantsoa, R., Falckenhayn, C., Hanna, K., Stein, W., Rasamy, J., and Lyko, F. (2018). Clonal genome evolution and rapid invasive spread of the marbled crayfish. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 2: 567-573.
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