Prestigious awards for LMU scientists

8 Apr 2018

Nicolas Gompel and Ralf Jungmann have received grants from the Human Frontier Science Program for 3-year collaborative research projects with international colleagues.

Nicolas Gompel , who holds a Chair in Evolutionary Ecology in the Faculty of Biology at LMU, studies the genetic basis of evolutionary change. In his project, he will undertake a “Quantitative Dissection of Molecular Determinants of Enhancer Function”, in collaboration with Stephan Preibisch (Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin) and Remo Rohs (University of Southern California, Los Angeles). The overall goal is to understand the molecular clockwork of enhancers, the DNA switches that turn gene expression on in the space and time. Focusing on a specific enhancer active in the wing of the fruit fly Drosophila, the team will design a collection of variants of this sequence. They will describe sequence variation mathematically, and then assay the activity of each variant in flies. The team has also devised a method to quantitatively describe the activity of enhancers in fly wings. Ultimately, the scientists want to establish a mathematical model that describes how sequence determines activity. They will use this model to design synthetic gene switches.

Ralf Jungmann , Professor of Experimental Physics at LMU, has also received a highly endowed Young Investigators’ Grant. His collaborators are Professor Maartje Bastings, who heads the Programmable Biomaterials Lab at the Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and Dr. Ian Parish, who works in the Cancer Immunology Program at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia. Their project, entitled “Detecting inequity in dendritic cells through bio-inspired synthetic T cells”, is designed to elucidate the basic mechanisms that enable the immune system to distinguish between self and non-self. More specifically, Jungmann and colleagues want to know how antigen-presenting dendritic cells activate T cells to recognize and attack cells expressing non-self proteins, while rendering them tolerant to self antigens. To answer this question, they must work out what the dendritic cell actually presents, i.e. define the precise nature of the interaction between single dendritic cells and their T-cell partners. Super-resolution fluorescence microscopy techniques now provide a means of doing so. Jungmann, who also leads a research group in Molecular Imaging and Bionanotechnology at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, has developed hybridization-dependent techniques for multiplexed fluorescence imaging of specific proteins in single cells, based on the use of complementary DNA tags and nanostructures generated by DNA origami. The project team plans to construct synthetic T cells that will make it possible to utilize these DNA-based tools to characterize and identify the signal molecules involved in the interaction of T cells with dendritic cells.

The Human Frontier Science Program promotes international research collaborations in the biosciences, and projects must involve researchers from at least two countries.

For more information on Nicolas Gompel’s work, see: Ripeness is all

For more information on Ralf Jungmann’s work, see: All a question of visibility

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