AG Lechner - Bioinformatics Junior Group

Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Philipps-University Marburg

About us

We operate at the interface of experimental and computational science. As a result, algorithmic bioinformatics is as important as to apply bioinformatic techniques and tools in order to solve current questions in biology, biochemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry. Our research mainly covers genomics, transcriptomics and molecular interactions. A strong network of experimental and computational laboratories allows us to combine analyses in silico, in vitro and in vivo on a multitude of multidisciplinary subjects.

Current topics

Fissioned protein Our algorithmic development focuses on orthology prediction and mapping of next-generation sequencing data, including circular fragments. The methods are used for instance, to build high-resolution phylogenies or to compare and re-annotate certain clades with exceptional properties. Examples are the Aquificales, a thermophile order of bacteria or the genus of Enterococcus that is persistently found in food such as dairy and meat but also has members well known for their pathogenicity.

The pharmaceutical focus lies on host-pathogen interactions, where we study the mechanisms of viral infections. More specifically, we aim for a deeper understanding into the regulation of transcription and replication of the Ebola virus and analyze the stability and influence on pathogenicity of e.g. the Influenza NS1 protein or the plant virus protein p19 that suppresses the RNA interference mechanism of the host.

In detailed evolutionary and functional studies we investigate 6S RNA and Ribonuclease P. 6S RNA is a small non-coding RNA found in bacteria. Despite being an RNA template, it mimics an open DNA promoter and is thus able to influence transcription on regular promoters. The molecule acts as a kind of storing device for RNA polymerase when nutrition is sparse. In contrast to most bacteria, Firmicutes express an additional variant of 6S RNA. Its distinctive function is so far unknown. Ribonuclease P on the other hand is found in all domains of life but can consist of a single RNA, a single protein to a variety of subunits combining both. It is mandatory to cleave primary tRNA transcripts at their 5'-end. Nevertheless, no counterpart is known for Aquificaceae so far. Moreover, a variety of non-tRNA substrates was discovered, suggesting a more general function in RNA metabolism.

Major methods

     Orthology scheme     Phylogenetic tree     6S RNA in 3D     RNA-Seq heatmap