Circalunar clocks: using the right light
How animals are able to interpret natural light sources to adjust their physiology and behavior is poorly understood. The labs of Kristin Tessmar-Raible (Max Perutz Labs Vienna, Alfred Wegener Institut, University of Oldenburg) and Eva Wolf (Johannes Gutenberg University and Institute of Molecular Biology Mainz) have now revealed that a molecule called L-cryptochrome (L-Cry) has the biochemical properties to discriminate between different moon phases, as well as between sun- and moonlight. Their findings, published in Nature Communications, show that L-Cry can interpret moonlight to entrain the monthly (circalunar) clock of a marine worm to control sexual maturation and reproduction.
Stephanie Ellis named a 2022 Vallee Scholar
Congratulations to Stephanie Ellis who has received the 2022 Vallee Scholar Award from the Vallee Foundation. The career development grant aims to support outstanding junior faculty carrying out basic biomedical research and will help to fund Stephanie’s work on cell competition over the next four years.
Where art and science meet
From September 15 - 17, 2022 group leader Jörg Menche and his team hosted “The Shape of Things to Come”, a 3-day mixed-reality exhibition. At various locations across the Vienna BioCenter, scientists and artists presented their ideas of how they picture our future environment in augmented and virtual reality.
On standby: how the developing embryo guards against viral infection
Stem cells intrinsically express genes normally associated with the innate immune system, but in the absence of external stimuli such as viral infections. In new work published in EMBO Reports, the lab of Christa Bücker has discovered that expression of a key gene of the innate immune response, Irf1, is controlled by the gene regulatory network that regulates the transition from naïve to formative pluripotency during embryonic development. Their findings suggest that antiviral defense is upregulated to transiently protect the embryo from viral infections during a critical timepoint in development.
“The idea is to connect people” - Manuela Baccarini elected Vice-Rector
Congratulations to Max Perutz Labs faculty member Manuela Baccarini, who has been elected new Vice-Rector for Research and International Affairs of the University of Vienna. She will be part of the rectorate team led by rector Sebastian Schütze that will start its tenure in October 2022.
Exhibition about Max Perutz draws over 5.000 visitors
Although he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research on hemoglobin, Max Perutz is hardly known to a broader public in Austria. The exhibition and science outreach project “Breathing at High Altitude” was created to teach the public about the life and science of this extraordinary researcher. During its first public showing at the University of Vienna the exhibition was visited by more than 5.000 people over the course of four weeks.
“Cherish the beginning”
Stephanie Ellis studied in Canada and obtained a PhD from the University of British Columbia after which she did post-doctoral work with Elaine Fuchs at Rockefeller University. In early 2022 she started her research group at the Max Perutz Labs as an Assistant Professor at the University of Vienna. Her lab will study mechanisms of cell competition and tissue fitness in development and disease. In our interview she talks about the medical potential of her research, how her love for telling stories drove her to a career in science and what advice she would give her younger self.
Climate@MaxPerutzLabs initiative wins Austrian Sustainability Award 2022
The Climate@MaxPerutzLabs initiative has received the Sustainability Award 2022 by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and the Federal Ministry of Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology. The award recognizes innovative and sustainable projects at Austrian Universities and Higher Education institutions.
ÖAW DOC Fellowships awarded to Max Perutz Labs students
Congratulations to Valentina Budroni, Toni Manolova, Alexander Stockinger, and Alexander Tsarev who have been awarded DOC Fellowships by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW). The DOC program offers funding for highly qualified doctoral candidates in all areas of research. The fellowships will support projects on antiviral immunity, transposon silencing, the regenerative abilities of bristle worms, and RNA metabolism.
Putting a finger on meiosis
The proper processing of DNA lesions is critical to faithful chromosome segregation and genome integrity. As part of a larger complex of proteins, Topoisomerase 3 (TOP3) can decatenate joint DNA structures and reverse invading DNA strands during recombination in meiosis and mitosis. Besides a catalytic domain, TOP3 contains C-terminal zinc finger domains (ZnF) whose functions remain poorly understood. The lab of Verena Jantsch has now demonstrated that the deletion of this domain elicits a delay in the processing of recombination intermediates, which contrasts the penetrant embryonic death seen in the gene disruption allele. The study is published in Nucleic Acids Research.
Rendezvous at night – how moonlight fine-tunes animal reproduction
Animals possess circadian clocks, or 24 h oscillators, to regulate daily behavior. These typically take their cues from the periodic change of sunlight and darkness. However, many animals are also exposed to moonlight, which re-occurs with ~25h periodicity. The labs of Florian Raible at the Max Perutz Labs, a joint venture of the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna, and Kristin Tessmar-Raible (Max Perutz Labs, Alfred Wegener Institute, University of Oldenburg) have now discovered that moonlight adjusts the daily clock of marine bristle worms, which helps them to fine-tune their reproductive cycle to certain hours during the night. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides an explanation for the phenomenon that daily clocks from flies to humans can exhibit plastic run-times.
“Breathing at High Altitude” – an exhibition about the life and science of Max Perutz has opened its doors in the arcaded courtyard in the main building of the University of Vienna. The project was initiated by the Max Perutz Labs with the goal of sparking curiosity among the broader public about this pioneer of molecular biology. “Breathing at High Altitude” illustrates Max Perutz’ fascinating life, celebrates his love for mountains, and visualizes “breathing” in a unique way.