Elite Network: Gene regulation by non-coding RNA

Gene regulation by non-coding RNA

With the completion of the human genome project it became clear that the overwhelming ma­jor­ity of our genome does not encode proteins, yet is still actively transcribed, giving rise to hundreds of thousands of non-coding RNAs. Since the function of most of these RNAs is unknown we study their impact on gene expression using biochemistry, structural biology and systems biology approaches based on next-generation sequencing.

The Junior Research Group at a glance

Place of researchUniversity of Bayreuth
AssociationElite Graduate Program „Macromolecular Science“
Project duration2014 to 2020
Group LeaderDr. Claus D. Kuhn
Contact the group leader
Further informationWebsite of “Gene regulation by non-coding RNA“

Gene regulation by non-coding RNA

With the completion of the human genome project it became clear that the over­whelm­ing majority of our genome does not encode proteins, yet is still actively transcribed, giving rise to hundreds of thousands of non-coding RNAs. Since the function of most of these RNAs is unknown we study their impact on gene expression using biochemistry, structural biology and systems biology approaches based on next-generation se­quenc­ing. Our work will advance applied research into tissue re­ge­ne­ra­tion, cancer progression and will allow for a deeper under­stan­ding of aberrant gene expression in human disease. Understanding the role of non-coding RNAs in human disease is especially im­por­tant since in the last years the first the­ra­peu­ti­cal antisense RNAs and small interfering RNAs were approved for the treatment of human disease. RNA may therefore consititute an entirely novel class of therapeutics to treat human disease.

Research Aims

We investigate how piRNAs (Piwi-interacting RNAs) influence the regeneration of planarian flatworms. Planarians are flatworms that live in freshwater and possess phenomenal regenerative capacity. In par­ti­cu­lar, we are interested in how piRNAs regu­la­ting mRNA turnover and direct epigenetic changes in their stem cells.

With our work we will therefore contribute to better understand and direct organs regeneration from pluripotent stem cells.


Moreover, in a project centered on structural biology we examine how the oncogene CDK8 is regulated by other members of the Mediator kinase module and by activating ncRNAs (non-coding RNAs). CDK8 is an important oncogene that is found upregulated in many human cancers like colon cancer. Our work is therefore directed at facilitating the development of novel CDK8-specific drugs.

Portrait photo: Dr. Claus D. Kuhn

The Elite Network of Bavaria has enabled me to follow my dreams. In complete independence I can pursue my research aims and, along the way, I can train the next generation of aspiring scientists.

Dr. Claus D. Kuhn

Last, we study how eRNAs (enhancer RNAs) mo­du­la­te synaptic plasticity and neuronal de­ve­lop­ment, thereby influencing our brain's ability to learn and memorize. Enhancer RNAs were recently found to directly in­fluence neuronal transcription rates. With our work we aim at de­ciphe­ring the molecular basis for this fascinating activity.

The International Research Group cooperates with the Elite Graduate Program „Macromolecular Science“ at the University of Bayreuth.

Overview of research aims

Further cooperations

Stowers Institute for Medical ResearchKansas City, USA
UT Southwestern Medical CenterDallas, USA