© Institute of Physiological Chemistry TU Dresden

Research Focus

Mission: The biogenesis and function of the nucleosome landscape

The Mueller-Planitz lab studies the core components of chromatin – the nucleosomes and the machinery that places them in the genome. Nucleosomes are crucial to human health. Aging, for instance, disrupts the nucleosome landscape, destabilizing the genome, and mutations in nucleosomes are drivers of cancers. Nucleosomes serve both as barriers that restrict access to the genome and as a medium to accumulate epigenetic marks. Correspondingly, the locations of nucleosomes in the genome are precisely controlled by so called nucleosome remodeling complexes. Remodelers move, assemble, or eject nucleosomes in an ATP-dependent fashion. Some also even the spacing between nucleosomes, setting a characteristic nucleosome-to-nucleosome distance. These ‘spacing remodelers’ thereby generate arrays of nucleosomes with a surprising regularity, and these arrays are conserved throughout eukaryotes. Their function however remains elusive.

Figure: Remodeling enzymes establish the nucleosome organization over genes. In an ATP hydrolysis-dependent manner, remodelers position the first nucleosome downstream of the transcription start site (red arrow; bottom), and induce even spacing between nucleosomes downstream of it. Without remodelers (top), cryptic promoters open, leading to spurious transcription.

The overarching aim of the Mueller-Planitz lab is to elucidate the biogenesis of the nucleosome landscape and dissect its biological function under physiological and pathological conditions. To achieve this goal, his lab bridges methodologies of molecular biology, genetics, genomics, biophysics, structural biology, and enzymology. They develop cutting-edge technology to visualize individual nucleosome patterns in single cells, and to dissect the mechanism of nucleosome remodelling genome-wide in vivo and in vitro.

Nucleosomes have recently been shown to phase separate, raising a host of fundamental biological questions. For instance, can enzymes that operate on DNA and nucleosomes freely enter chromatin condensates, or are they excluded? (How) can enzymes operate in chromatin condensates? Are they differently regulated in such an environment? Can their activity dissolve condensates or induce their formation?

The Mueller-Planitz lab is addressing these and similar questions using high-end microscopy, incl. FLIM-FRET, quantitative biochemistry and computational simulations.

Remodeling enzymes set up the canonical nucleosome organization of genes. In an ATP hydrolysis-dependent manner, remodelers open up a “nucleosome depleted region” (NDR) and generate an array of nucleosomes with even spacing downstream of the transcription start site (arrow; bottom). Without remodelers (top), cryptic promoters open up leading to spurious transcription.

The Mueller-Planitz is always looking for highly motivated and creative students and postdocs

Students interested in a master’s project with a focus on molecular biology, biochemistry, genomics or biophysics are encouraged to apply.

Students interested in a PhD project should apply to the Dresden International Graduate School for Biomedicine and Bioengineering (DIGS-BB).

We are also supporting fellowship applications of outstanding postdoctoral researchers who wish to join our lab. Funding is available through various organizations (Humboldt foundation, HFSP, EMBO, DAAD, etc.).

In case you are interested in joining the lab, get in touch with Felix Mueller-Planitz!

Current news by this research group

We’re currently hiring!

We’re looking for Master and PhD students. Get in touch if you love epigenetics, genomics, and long-read sequencing as much as we do! Especially if you have an affinity not only for molecular biology but also for bioinformatics! Students interested in a PhD project should apply to the Dresden…

Read More